publishedmedium:the new yorker

  • For Israel’s golden intel boys, it starts with terror and ends with greed Veterans of Israel’s famed signal intelligence corps, already well versed in violence against the helpless, are now indulging in rotten meddling abroad
    Gideon Levy - Feb 16, 2019 10:53 PM
    https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-for-israel-s-golden-intel-boys-it-starts-with-terror-and-ends-with

    A coincidence brought together two stories in Haaretz last Wednesday. One reported on the sadistic abuse of two Palestinians by soldiers from the Netzah Yehuda Battalion, while the other told of astonishing meddling abroad by Israeli intelligence companies.

    Ostensibly the conduct of the battalion is more sickening. But actually the actions of veterans of the Mossad and the military’s signal intelligence unit, 8200, is much more disturbing.

    The abusive soldiers will be punished to some extent; usually they come from the margins of society. But the veterans of Israel’s top secret cyber-agencies are the new elite, the heroes of our time, beautiful and promising, the proud future of innovation and high-tech. Who doesn’t want their son or daughter to serve in 8200? Who isn’t proud of the Mossad’s work?

    But some of these good people do very bad things, no less infuriating than punching a blindfolded Palestinian in front of his son. At 8200 they don’t kill people or beat them up, but the damage the unit’s veterans do can be no less severe.

    The success stories are many. The name of the game is to start up a company, exit quickly and take the money. In T-shirts, sneakers and jeans they make money hand over fist. During their afternoon breaks they order sushi and play the video games “FIFA 17” and “Mortal Kombat.”

    Most of them come from 8200. Beneath their impressive successes, there is rot. The veterans of the biggest and maybe the most prestigious unit in the army, the new pilots, know everything. Sometimes too much.

    A long, disturbing article by Adam Entous and Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker tells about these companies, particularly Psy-Group, made up of Mossad and 8200 veterans. There’s no place in the world they’re not interfering – from Gabon to Romania, from the Netherlands to the U.S. elections.

    There’s also nothing they won’t do; money covers everything. Project Butterfly, the war declared by Israeli cyber-mercenaries on U.S. campuses against the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, was particularly disgusting. Psy-Group, with members of the old boys’ club – Ram Ben-Barak, a former deputy head of the Mossad and a Yesh Atid Knesset candidate, and Yaakov Amidror, a general and a former national security adviser – spied on anti-Israel activists on U.S. campuses and collected dirt on them.

    It’s like a war, the hero Ben-Barak told The New Yorker. The private Israeli firm works on U.S. campuses against political activists for $2.5 million a year. This money was contributed by Jews (who were promised they were “investing in Israel’s future”), some of whose children are students on those same campuses.

    Imagine if a foreign company spied on right-wing students in Israel and spread slander about them. But Israel is allowed to do anything. Uzi Arad, a former national security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and a Mossad veteran, told The New Yorker that he was ashamed of these mercenaries.

    These actions are being carried out by the best of our young people. According to The New Yorker, the Israeli companies control the global disinformation and manipulation market. They have a huge advantage. As Gadi Aviran, founder of the intelligence firm Terrogence, told the magazine: “There was this huge pipeline of talent coming out of the military every year,” and “All a company like mine had to do was stand at the gate and say, ‘You look interesting.’” It always starts with terror, real or imagined, and ends with greed.

    First we have a “huge pipeline of talent” familiar with the alleyways of Jabalya and Jenin in the West Bank, well experienced in violence against the helpless. The training grounds of the Israeli arms industry, unmanned bombers and lethal joysticks have led to lots of prestige and money for the state.

    Now, in the spirit of the times, we have the meddlers from the high-ups of the Mossad and 8200. And when one day somebody asks where the temerity came from to meddle like that, we’ll quote Amidror, who said: “If people are ready to finance it, it is O.K. with me.” Before we keep encouraging young people to join 8200 and take pride in the unit, we should remember that this rot also emerged from it.



  • Why are so many women writing about rough sex? | Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett | Opinion | The Guardian

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/feb/07/women-writing-rough-sex-metoo

    After #Metoo, it’s no surprise a new generation of female authors is exploring sexual abuse and dominance

    Thu 7 Feb 2019 17.00 AEDT

    Cat Person author Kristen Roupenian

    ‘I found some of the scenes in Kristen Roupenian’s new collection so unpalatable I had to keep putting it down.’ Photograph: Chuk Nowak/The Guardian

    Recently I have found myself wondering about the prevalence of rough sex in new fiction written by women. It’s viscerally present in You Know You Want This, the new short-story collection by Kristen Roupenian (who shot to fame last year with Cat Person, published in the New Yorker): I found some of the scenes so unpalatable that I had to keep putting it down. They (spoiler alert) include a woman strangled to death as part of a sex game; a man who imagines his penis is a knife when he has sex; and a woman who says to the guy she is sleeping with: “I want you to punch me in the face as hard as you can. After you’ve punched me, when I’ve fallen down, I want you to kick me in the stomach. And then we can have sex.”


  • Undercover agents target cybersecurity watchdog who detailed Israeli firm NSO’s link to #Khashoggi scandal
    Haaretz.Com
    https://www.haaretz.com/misc/article-print-page/.premium-undercover-agents-target-watchdog-who-detailed-israeli-firm-nso-s-

    Operatives with fake identities are pursuing members of #Citizen_Lab, the group that uncovered the connection between Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and Israel’s surveillance company #NSO
    The Associated Press | Jan. 26, 2019 | 4:19 PM

    The researchers who reported that Israeli software was used to spy on Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s inner circle before his gruesome death are being targeted in turn by international undercover operatives, The Associated Press has found.

    Twice in the past two months, men masquerading as socially conscious investors have lured members of the Citizen Lab internet watchdog group to meetings at luxury hotels to quiz them for hours about their work exposing Israeli surveillance and the details of their personal lives. In both cases, the researchers believe they were secretly recorded.

    Citizen Lab Director Ron Deibert described the stunts as “a new low.”

    “We condemn these sinister, underhanded activities in the strongest possible terms,” he said in a statement Friday. “Such a deceitful attack on an academic group like the Citizen Lab is an attack on academic freedom everywhere.”

    Who these operatives are working for remains a riddle, but their tactics recall those of private investigators who assume elaborate false identities to gather intelligence or compromising material on critics of powerful figures in government or business.

    Citizen Lab, based out of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto, has for years played a leading role in exposing state-backed hackers operating in places as far afield as Tibet , Ethiopia and Syria . Lately the group has drawn attention for its repeated exposés of an Israeli surveillance software vendor called the NSO Group, a firm whose wares have been used by governments to target journalists in Mexico , opposition figures in Panama and human rights activists in the Middle East .

    In October, Citizen Lab reported that an iPhone belonging to one of Khashoggi’s confidantes had been infected by the NSO’s signature spy software only months before Khashoggi’s grisly murder. The friend, Saudi dissident Omar Abdulaziz, would later claim that the hacking had exposed Khashoggi’s private criticisms of the Saudi royal family to the Arab kingdom’s spies and thus “played a major role” in his death.

    In a statement, NSO denied having anything to do with the undercover operations targeting Citizen Lab, “either directly or indirectly” and said it had neither hired nor asked anyone to hire private investigators to pursue the Canadian organization. “Any suggestion to the contrary is factually incorrect and nothing more than baseless speculation,” NSO said.

    NSO has long denied that its software was used to target Khashoggi, although it has refused to comment when asked whether it has sold its software to the Saudi government more generally.

    The first message reached Bahr Abdul Razzak, a Syrian refugee who works as a Citizen Lab researcher, Dec. 6, when a man calling himself Gary Bowman got in touch via LinkedIn. The man described himself as a South African financial technology executive based in Madrid.

    “I came across your profile and think that the work you’ve done helping Syrian refugees and your extensive technical background could be a great fit for our new initiative,” Bowman wrote.

    Abdul Razzak said he thought the proposal was a bit odd, but he eventually agreed to meet the man at Toronto’s swanky Shangri-La Hotel on the morning of Dec. 18.

    The conversation got weird very quickly, Abdul Razzak said.

    Instead of talking about refugees, Abdul Razzak said, Bowman grilled him about his work for Citizen Lab and its investigations into the use of NSO’s software. Abdul Razzak said Bowman appeared to be reading off cue cards, asking him if he was earning enough money and throwing out pointed questions about Israel, the war in Syria and Abdul Razzak’s religiosity.

    “Do you pray?” Abdul Razzak recalled Bowman asking. “Why do you write only about NSO?” ’’Do you write about it because it’s an Israeli company?" ’’Do you hate #Israel?"

    Abdul Razzak said he emerged from the meeting feeling shaken. He alerted his Citizen Lab colleagues, who quickly determined that the breakfast get-together had been a ruse. Bowman’s supposed Madrid-based company, FlameTech, had no web presence beyond a LinkedIn page, a handful of social media profiles and an entry in the business information platform Crunchbase. A reverse image search revealed that the profile picture of the man listed as FlameTech’s chief executive, Mauricio Alonso, was a stock photograph.

    “My immediate gut feeling was: ’This is a fake,’” said John Scott-Railton, one of Abdul Razzak’s colleagues.

    Scott-Railton flagged the incident to the AP, which confirmed that FlameTech was a digital facade.

    Searches of the Orbis database of corporate records, which has data on some 300 million global companies, turned up no evidence of a Spanish firm called FlameTech or Flame Tech or any company anywhere in the world matching its description. Similarly, the AP found no record of FlameTech in Madrid’s official registry or of a Gary Bowman in the city’s telephone listings. An Orbis search for Alonso, the supposed chief executive, also drew a blank. When an AP reporter visited Madrid’s Crystal Tower high-rise, where FlameTech claimed to have 250 sq. meters (2,700 sq. feet) of office space, he could find no trace of the firm and calls to the number listed on its website went unanswered.

    The AP was about to publish a story about the curious company when, on Jan. 9, Scott-Railton received an intriguing message of his own.

    This time the contact came not from Bowman of FlameTech but from someone who identified himself as Michel Lambert, a director at the Paris-based agricultural technology firm CPW-Consulting.

    Lambert had done his homework. In his introductory email , he referred to Scott-Railton’s early doctoral research on kite aerial photography — a mapping technique using kite-mounted cameras — and said he was “quite impressed.

    We have a few projects and clients coming up that could significantly benefit from implementing Kite Aerial Photography,” he said.

    Like FlameTech, CPW-Consulting was a fiction. Searches of Orbis and the French commercial court registry Infogreffe turned up no trace of the supposedly Paris-based company or indeed of any Paris-based company bearing the acronym CPW. And when the AP visited CPW’s alleged office there was no evidence of the company; the address was home to a mainly residential apartment building. Residents and the building’s caretaker said they had never heard of the firm.

    Whoever dreamed up CPW had taken steps to ensure the illusion survived a casual web search, but even those efforts didn’t bear much scrutiny. The company had issued a help wanted ad, for example, seeking a digital mapping specialist for their Paris office, but Scott-Railton discovered that the language had been lifted almost word-for-word from an ad from an unrelated company seeking a mapping specialist in London. A blog post touted CPW as a major player in Africa, but an examination of the author’s profile suggests the article was the only one the blogger had ever written.

    When Lambert suggested an in-person meeting in New York during a Jan. 19 phone call , Scott-Railton felt certain that Lambert was trying to set him up.

    But Scott-Railton agreed to the meeting. He planned to lay a trap of his own.

    Anyone watching Scott-Railton and Lambert laughing over wagyu beef and lobster bisque at the Peninsula Hotel’s upscale restaurant on Thursday afternoon might have mistaken the pair for friends.

    In fact, the lunch was Spy vs. Spy. Scott-Railton had spent the night before trying to secret a homemade camera into his tie, he later told AP, eventually settling for a GoPro action camera and several recording devices hidden about his person. On the table, Lambert had placed a large pen in which Scott-Railton said he spotted a tiny camera lens peeking out from an opening in the top.

    Lambert didn’t seem to be alone. At the beginning of the meal, a man sat behind him, holding up his phone as if to take pictures and then abruptly left the restaurant, having eaten nothing. Later, two or three men materialized at the bar and appeared to be monitoring proceedings.

    Scott-Railton wasn’t alone either. A few tables away, two Associated Press journalists were making small talk as they waited for a signal from Scott-Railton, who had invited the reporters to observe the lunch from nearby and then interview Lambert near the end of the meal.

    The conversation began with a discussion of kites, gossip about African politicians, and a detour through Scott-Railton’s family background. But Lambert, just like Bowman, eventually steered the talk to Citizen Lab and NSO.

    “Work drama? Tell me, I like drama!” Lambert said at one point, according to Scott-Railton’s recording of the conversation. “Is there a big competition between the people inside Citizen Lab?” he asked later.

    Like Bowman, Lambert appeared to be working off cue cards and occasionally made awkward conversational gambits. At one point he repeated a racist French expression, insisting it wasn’t offensive. He also asked Scott-Railton questions about the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and whether he grew up with any Jewish friends. At another point he asked whether there might not be a “racist element” to Citizen Lab’s interest in Israeli spyware.

    After dessert arrived, the AP reporters approached Lambert at his table and asked him why his company didn’t seem to exist.
    He seemed to stiffen.

    “I know what I’m doing,” Lambert said, as he put his files — and his pen — into a bag. Then he stood up, bumped into a chair and walked off, saying “Ciao” and waving his hand, before returning because he had neglected to pay the bill.

    As he paced around the restaurant waiting for the check, Lambert refused to answer questions about who he worked for or why no trace of his firm could be found.

    “I don’t have to give you any explanation,” he said. He eventually retreated to a back room and closed the door.

    Who Lambert and Bowman really are isn’t clear. Neither men returned emails, LinkedIn messages or phone calls. And despite their keen focus on NSO the AP has found no evidence of any link to the Israeli spyware merchant, which is adamant that it wasn’t involved.

    The kind of aggressive investigative tactics used by the mystery men who targeted Citizen Lab have come under fire in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal. Black Cube, an Israeli private investigation firm apologized after The New Yorker and other media outlets revealed that the company’s operatives had used subterfuge and dirty tricks to help the Hollywood mogul suppress allegations of rape and sexual assault.

    Scott-Railton and Abdul Razzak said they didn’t want to speculate about who was involved. But both said they believed they were being steered toward making controversial comments that could be used to blacken Citizen Lab’s reputation.

    “It could be they wanted me to say, ’Yes, I hate Israel,’ or ’Yes, Citizen Lab is against NSO because it’s Israeli,’” said Abdul Razzak.
    Scott-Railton said the elaborate, multinational operation was gratifying, in a way.

    “People were paid to fly to a city to sit you down to an expensive meal and try to convince you to say bad things about your work, your colleagues and your employer,” he said.

    “That means that your work is important.”


  • How Voting-Machine Lobbyists Undermine the Democratic Process | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/how-voting-machine-lobbyists-undermine-the-democratic-process

    Earlier this month, Georgia’s Secure, Accessible & Fair Elections Commission voted to recommend that the state replace its touch-screen voting machines with newer, similarly vulnerable machines, which will be produced by E.S. & S. at an estimated cost of a hundred million dollars. In doing so, the panel rejected the advice of computer scientists and election-integrity advocates, who consider hand-marked ballots to be the “most reliable record of voter intent,” and also the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, which recommended that all states adopt paper ballots and conduct post-election audits. The practice of democracy begins with casting votes; its integrity depends on the inclusivity of the franchise and the accurate recording of its will. Georgia turns out to be a prime example of how voting-system venders, in partnership with elected officials, can jeopardize the democratic process by influencing municipalities to buy proprietary, inscrutable voting devices that are infinitely less secure than paper-ballot systems that cost three times less.

    The influence-peddling that has beset Georgia’s voting-system procurement began years earlier, in 2002, when the legislature eliminated a requirement that the state’s voting machines produce an independent audit trail of each vote cast. That same year, the secretary of state, Cathy Cox, signed a fifty-four-million-dollar contract with the election-machine vender Diebold. The lobbyist for Diebold, the former Georgia secretary of state Lewis Massey, then joined the lobbying firm of Bruce Bowers. The revolving door between the Georgia state government and the election venders was just beginning to spin.

    Something similar happened last fall in Delaware, where the Voting Equipment Selection Task Force also voted to replace its aging touch-screen machines with a variant of the ExpressVote system. When Jennifer Hill, at Common Cause Delaware, a government-accountability group, obtained all the bids from a public-records request, she found that “the Department of Elections had pretty much tailored the request for proposal in a way that eliminated venders whose primary business was to sell paper-ballot systems.” Hill also noted that a lobbyist for E.S. & S., who was “well-connected in the state,” helped “to shepherd this whole thing through.” Elaine Manlove, the Delaware elections director, told me that the twelve members of the election task force each independently concluded that ExpressVote was the best system for the state. “It’s not a big change for Delaware voters,” she said. “They’re voting on the screen, just like they do now.” (A representative from E.S. & S. told me that the the company “follows all state and federal guidelines for procurement of government contracts.”)

    The ExpressVote machines use what are known as ballot-marking devices. Once a vote is cast on the touch screen, the machine prints out a card that summarizes the voter’s choice, in both plain English and in the form of a bar code. After the voter reviews the card, it is returned to the machine, which records the information symbolized by the bar code. It’s a paper trail, but one that a voter can’t actually verify, because the bar codes can’t be read. “If you’re tallying based on bar codes, you could conceivably have software that [flips] the voter’s choices,” Buell said. “If you’re in a target state using these devices and the computer security isn’t very good, this becomes more likely.” This is less of a concern in states that require manual post-election audits. But neither Georgia nor Delaware do.

    #Voting_machine #Elections #Démocratie


  • Is Marijuana as Safe as We Think ? | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/01/14/is-marijuana-as-safe-as-we-think

    A few years ago, the National Academy of Medicine convened a panel of sixteen leading medical experts to analyze the scientific literature on cannabis. The report they prepared, which came out in January of 2017, runs to four hundred and sixty-eight pages. It contains no bombshells or surprises, which perhaps explains why it went largely unnoticed. It simply stated, over and over again, that a drug North Americans have become enthusiastic about remains a mystery.

    For example, smoking pot is widely supposed to diminish the nausea associated with chemotherapy. But, the panel pointed out, “there are no good-quality randomized trials investigating this option.” We have evidence for marijuana as a treatment for pain, but “very little is known about the efficacy, dose, routes of administration, or side effects of commonly used and commercially available cannabis products in the United States.” The caveats continue. Is it good for epilepsy? “Insufficient evidence.” Tourette’s syndrome? Limited evidence. A.L.S., Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s? Insufficient evidence. Irritable-bowel syndrome? Insufficient evidence. Dementia and glaucoma? Probably not. Anxiety? Maybe. Depression? Probably not.

    Then come Chapters 5 through 13, the heart of the report, which concern marijuana’s potential risks. The haze of uncertainty continues. Does the use of cannabis increase the likelihood of fatal car accidents? Yes. By how much? Unclear. Does it affect motivation and cognition? Hard to say, but probably. Does it affect employment prospects? Probably. Will it impair academic achievement? Limited evidence. This goes on for pages.

    We need proper studies, the panel concluded, on the health effects of cannabis on children and teen-agers and pregnant women and breast-feeding mothers and “older populations” and “heavy cannabis users”; in other words, on everyone except the college student who smokes a joint once a month. The panel also called for investigation into “the pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic properties of cannabis, modes of delivery, different concentrations, in various populations, including the dose-response relationships of cannabis and THC or other cannabinoids.”

    Not surprisingly, the data we have are messy. Berenson, in his role as devil’s advocate, emphasizes the research that sees cannabis as opening the door to opioid use. For example, two studies of identical twins—in the Netherlands and in Australia—show that, in cases where one twin used cannabis before the age of seventeen and the other didn’t, the cannabis user was several times more likely to develop an addiction to opioids. Berenson also enlists a statistician at N.Y.U. to help him sort through state-level overdose data, and what he finds is not encouraging: “States where more people used cannabis tended to have more overdoses.”

    The National Academy panel is more judicious. Its conclusion is that we simply don’t know enough, because there haven’t been any “systematic” studies. But the panel’s uncertainty is scarcely more reassuring than Berenson’s alarmism. Seventy-two thousand Americans died in 2017 of drug overdoses. Should you embark on a pro-cannabis crusade without knowing whether it will add to or subtract from that number?

    Drug policy is always clearest at the fringes. Illegal opioids are at one end. They are dangerous. Manufacturers and distributors belong in prison, and users belong in drug-treatment programs. The cannabis industry would have us believe that its product, like coffee, belongs at the other end of the continuum. “Flow Kana partners with independent multi-generational farmers who cultivate under full sun, sustainably, and in small batches,” the promotional literature for one California cannabis brand reads. “Using only organic methods, these stewards of the land have spent their lives balancing a unique and harmonious relationship between the farm, the genetics and the terroir.” But cannabis is not coffee. It’s somewhere in the middle. The experience of most users is relatively benign and predictable; the experience of a few, at the margins, is not.

    The National Academy panel is more judicious. Its conclusion is that we simply don’t know enough, because there haven’t been any “systematic” studies. But the panel’s uncertainty is scarcely more reassuring than Berenson’s alarmism. Seventy-two thousand Americans died in 2017 of drug overdoses. Should you embark on a pro-cannabis crusade without knowing whether it will add to or subtract from that number?

    Drug policy is always clearest at the fringes. Illegal opioids are at one end. They are dangerous. Manufacturers and distributors belong in prison, and users belong in drug-treatment programs. The cannabis industry would have us believe that its product, like coffee, belongs at the other end of the continuum. “Flow Kana partners with independent multi-generational farmers who cultivate under full sun, sustainably, and in small batches,” the promotional literature for one California cannabis brand reads. “Using only organic methods, these stewards of the land have spent their lives balancing a unique and harmonious relationship between the farm, the genetics and the terroir.” But cannabis is not coffee. It’s somewhere in the middle. The experience of most users is relatively benign and predictable; the experience of a few, at the margins, is not.

    Late last year, the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, Scott Gottlieb, announced a federal crackdown on e-cigarettes. He had seen the data on soaring use among teen-agers, and, he said, “it shocked my conscience.” He announced that the F.D.A. would ban many kinds of flavored e-cigarettes, which are especially popular with teens, and would restrict the retail outlets where e-cigarettes were available.

    In the dozen years since e-cigarettes were introduced into the marketplace, they have attracted an enormous amount of attention. There are scores of studies and papers on the subject in the medical and legal literature, grappling with the questions raised by the new technology. Vaping is clearly popular among kids. Is it a gateway to traditional tobacco use? Some public-health experts worry that we’re grooming a younger generation for a lifetime of dangerous addiction. Yet other people see e-cigarettes as a much safer alternative for adult smokers looking to satisfy their nicotine addiction. That’s the British perspective. Last year, a Parliamentary committee recommended cutting taxes on e-cigarettes and allowing vaping in areas where it had previously been banned. Since e-cigarettes are as much as ninety-five per cent less harmful than regular cigarettes, the committee argued, why not promote them? Gottlieb said that he was splitting the difference between the two positions—giving adults “opportunities to transition to non-combustible products,” while upholding the F.D.A.’s “solemn mandate to make nicotine products less accessible and less appealing to children.” He was immediately criticized.

    “Somehow, we have completely lost all sense of public-health perspective,” Michael Siegel, a public-health researcher at Boston University, wrote after the F.D.A. announcement:

    #Santé_publique #Marijuana


  • The Philosopher Redefining Equality | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/01/07/the-philosopher-redefining-equality

    At fifty-nine, Anderson is the chair of the University of Michigan’s department of philosophy and a champion of the view that equality and freedom are mutually dependent, enmeshed in changing conditions through time. Working at the intersection of moral and political philosophy, social science, and economics, she has become a leading theorist of democracy and social justice. She has built a case, elaborated across decades, that equality is the basis for a free society. Her work, drawing on real-world problems and information, has helped to redefine the way contemporary philosophy is done, leading what might be called the Michigan school of thought. Because she brings together ideas from both the left and the right to battle increasing inequality, Anderson may be the philosopher best suited to this awkward moment in American life. She builds a democratic frame for a society in which people come from different places and are predisposed to disagree.

    As the students listened, she sketched out the entry-level idea that one basic way to expand equality is by expanding the range of valued fields within a society. Unlike a hardscrabble peasant community of yore in which the only skill that anyone cared about might be agricultural prowess, a society with many valued arenas lets individuals who are good at art or storytelling or sports or making people laugh receive a bit of love.

    As a rule, it’s easy to complain about inequality, hard to settle on the type of equality we want. Do we want things to be equal where we start in life or where we land? When inequalities arise, what are the knobs that we adjust to get things back on track? Individually, people are unequal in countless ways, and together they join groups that resist blending. How do you build up a society that allows for such variety without, as in the greater-Detroit real-estate market, turning difference into a constraint? How do you move from a basic model of egalitarian variety, in which everybody gets a crack at being a star at something, to figuring out how to respond to a complex one, where people, with different allotments of talent and virtue, get unequal starts, and often meet with different constraints along the way?

    In 1999, Anderson published an article in the journal Ethics, titled “What Is the Point of Equality?,” laying out the argument for which she is best known. “If much recent academic work defending equality had been secretly penned by conservatives,” she began, opening a grenade in the home trenches, “could the results be any more embarrassing for egalitarians?”

    The problem, she proposed, was that contemporary egalitarian thinkers had grown fixated on distribution: moving resources from lucky-seeming people to unlucky-seeming people, as if trying to spread the luck around. This was a weird and nebulous endeavor. Is an heir who puts his assets into a house in a flood zone and loses it unlucky—or lucky and dumb? Or consider a woman who marries rich, has children, and stays at home to rear them (crucial work for which she gets no wages). If she leaves the marriage to escape domestic abuse and subsequently struggles to support her kids, is that bad luck or an accretion of bad choices? Egalitarians should agree about clear cases of blameless misfortune: the quadriplegic child, the cognitively impaired adult, the teen-ager born into poverty with junkie parents. But Anderson balked there, too. By categorizing people as lucky or unlucky, she argued, these egalitarians set up a moralizing hierarchy.

    To be truly free, in Anderson’s assessment, members of a society had to be able to function as human beings (requiring food, shelter, medical care), to participate in production (education, fair-value pay, entrepreneurial opportunity), to execute their role as citizens (freedom to speak and to vote), and to move through civil society (parks, restaurants, workplaces, markets, and all the rest). Egalitarians should focus policy attention on areas where that order had broken down. Being homeless was an unfree condition by all counts; thus, it was incumbent on a free society to remedy that problem. A quadriplegic adult was blocked from civil society if buildings weren’t required to have ramps. Anderson’s democratic model shifted the remit of egalitarianism from the idea of equalizing wealth to the idea that people should be equally free, regardless of their differences. A society in which everyone had the same material benefits could still be unequal, in this crucial sense; democratic equality, being predicated on equal respect, wasn’t something you could simply tax into existence. “People, not nature, are responsible for turning the natural diversity of human beings into oppressive hierarchies,” Anderson wrote.

    Her first book, “Value in Ethics and Economics,” appeared that year, announcing one of her major projects: reconciling value (an amorphous ascription of worth that is a keystone of ethics and economics) with pluralism (the fact that people seem to value things in different ways). Philosophers have often assumed that pluralistic value reflects human fuzziness—we’re loose, we’re confused, and we mix rational thought with sentimental responses. Anderson proposed that, actually, pluralism of value wasn’t the fuzz but the thing itself. She offered an “expressive” theory: in her view, each person’s values could be various because they were socially expressed, and thus shaped by the range of contexts and relationships at play in a life. Instead of positing value as a basic, abstract quality across society (the way “utility” functioned for economists), she saw value as something determined by the details of an individual’s history. Like her idea of relational equality, this model resisted the temptation to flatten human variety toward a unifying standard. In doing so, it helped expand the realm of free and reasoned economic choice.

    Broadly, there’s a culturally right and a culturally left ideal theory for race and society. The rightist version calls for color blindness. Instead of making a fuss about skin and ethnicity, its advocates say, society should treat people as people, and let the best and the hardest working rise. The leftist theory envisions identity communities: for once, give black people (or women, or members of other historically oppressed groups) the resources and opportunities they need, including, if they want it, civil infrastructure for themselves. In “The Imperative of Integration,” published in 2010, Anderson tore apart both of these models. Sure, it might be nice to live in a color-blind society, she wrote, but that’s nothing like the one that exists. In one study she cited, sixty per cent of people who saw a crime report on TV that hadn’t identified the suspect thought that it had; seventy per cent of those people thought that the suspect was black. Other research found that when white people pretended not to notice race they often acquired alienating tics, such as avoiding eye contact. Color blindness would simply lock in problems past correction.

    But the case for self-segregation was also weak. Affinity groups provided welcome comfort, yet that wasn’t the same as power or equality, Anderson pointed out. And there was a goose-and-gander problem. Either you let only certain groups self-segregate (certifying their subordinate status) or you also permitted, say, white men to do it, and—well, we have a lot of data from that experiment, and they’re not encouraging.

    Anderson’s solution was “integration,” a concept that, especially in progressive circles, had been uncool since the late sixties. Integration, by her lights, meant mixing on the basis of equality. It was not assimilation. It required adjustments from all groups. Anderson laid out four integrative stages: formal desegregation (no legal separation), spatial integration (different people share neighborhoods), formal social integration (they work together, and are one another’s bosses), and informal social integration (they become buddies, get married, start families). Black students in integrated high schools, according to one study, had higher graduation rates than those in segregated schools, even controlling for socioeconomic background, parental education, and other factors. Students—black and white—at integrated schools went on to lead more integrated lives.

    Many people still believed that market economies were a sound foundation of freedom. Yet, she found, ninety per cent of female restaurant workers reported being sexually harassed. Some poultry-industry employees were said to have worn diapers for lack of breaks. About seven million American workers had been compelled to support political positions under threat from their bosses. Such people could not be called free.

    Anderson zeroed in on Adam Smith, whose “The Wealth of Nations,” published in 1776, is taken as a keystone of free-market ideology. At the time, English labor was subject to uncompensated apprenticeships, domestic servitude, and some measure of clerical dominion. Rigid hierarchies, from the king to the pauper, were maintained by an arcane system of debts, favors, and gifts. Smith saw the markets as an escape from that order. Their “most important” function, he explained, was to bring “liberty and security” to those “who had before lived almost in a continual state of war with their neighbours, and of servile dependency upon their superiors.”

    Smith, in other words, was an egalitarian. He had written “The Wealth of Nations” in no small part to be a solution to what we’d now call structural inequality—the intractable, compounding privileges of an arbitrary hierarchy. It was a historical irony that, a century later, writers such as Marx pointed to the market as a structure of dominion over workers; in truth, Smith and Marx had shared a socioeconomic project. And yet Marx had not been wrong to trash Smith’s ideas, because, during the time between them, the world around Smith’s model had changed, and it was no longer a useful tool.

    “You can see that, from about 1950 to 1970, the typical American’s wages kept up with productivity growth,” she said. Then, around 1974, she went on, hourly compensation stagnated. American wages have been effectively flat for the past few decades, with the gains of productivity increasingly going to shareholders and to salaries for big bosses.

    What changed? Anderson rattled off a constellation of factors, from strengthened intellectual-property law to winnowed antitrust law. Financialization, deregulation. Plummeting taxes on capital alongside rising payroll taxes. Privatization, which exchanged modest public-sector salaries for C.E.O. paydays. She gazed into the audience and blinked. “So now we have to ask: What has been used to justify this rather dramatic shift of labor-share of income?” she said.

    #Philosophie #Etats-Unis #Egalité


  • Gone Girl | Official Trailer
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-_-1nJf8Vg


    Une fois les cadeaux déballés, les enfants couchés et les crises familiales de Noël apaisées les parents peuvent se rassurer avec ce film qui montre comment on peut toujours faire pire. Si malgré l’heure tardive notre couple de parents tient jusqu’á la fin du film il apprendra des choses sur les véritables perspectives d’un mariage.

    Gone Girl (film) - Wikipedia
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gone_Girl_(film)

    Gone Girl is a 2014 American psychological thriller film directed by David Fincher and written by Gillian Flynn, based on her 2012 novel of the same title. The film stars Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, and Tyler Perry. Set in Missouri, the story begins as a mystery that follows the events surrounding Nick Dunne (Affleck), who becomes the primary suspect in the sudden disappearance of his wife, Amy (Pike).

    SPOILER

    What “Gone Girl” Is Really About | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/books/joshua-rothman/gone-girl-really

    As in many postmodern narratives, the heroes and villains in Fincher’s “Gone Girl” aren’t people but stories. We hope that the familiar, reassuring ones will win out (they don’t). In fact, the film is so self-aware that none of the stories it tells can be taken at face value. As my colleague Richard Brody has written, the movie’s drama and characters have been streamlined so as to reveal their “underlying mythic power.” But “Gone Girl” is also anti-myth. When Amy (Rosamund Pike) says, of her plot against her husband, Nick (Ben Affleck), “That’s marriage,” you’re not supposed to believe her. If the myth of the perfect marriage is poisonous, then so is the myth of the continual “war of the sexes.” The question the movie asks is: Are there any stories that we can tell ourselves about marriage that ring true?

    #USA #mariage #film


  • “The American Meme” Records the Angst of Social-Media Influencers | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/the-american-meme-a-new-netflix-documentary-records-the-angst-of-social-m

    The new Netflix documentary “The American Meme,” directed by Bert Marcus, offers a chilling glimpse into the lives of social-media influencers, tracking their paths to online celebrity, their attempts to keep it, and their fear of losing it. Early on in the film, the pillowy-lipped model Emily Ratajkowski (twenty million Instagram followers and counting), who first became a viral sensation when, in 2013, she appeared bare-breasted in Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” video, attempts to address a popular complaint raised against social-media celebrities. “There’s the attention argument,” she says, as images of her posing in lingerie and swimwear appear on the screen. “That we’re doing it just for attention . . . And I say, what’s wrong with attention?” “The American Meme” can be seen, at least partly, as a response to Ratajkowski’s question. It’s true that the model, with her superior bone structure, lush curves, and preternatural knack for packaging her God-given gifts into an enticingly consistent product, is presented to us in the limited capacity of a talking head, and so the illusion of a perfect influencer life—in which attention is easily attracted and never worried over—can be kept. (“Privacy is dead now,” Ratajkowski says, with the offhanded flippancy of someone who is only profiting from this new reality. “Get over it.”) But what is fascinating, and valuable, about “The American Meme” is its ability to reveal the desperation, loneliness, and sheer Sisyphean tedium of ceaselessly chasing what will most likely end up being an ever-diminishing share of the online-attention economy.

    Khaled, his neck weighted with ropes of gold and diamonds, is one of the lucky predators of the particular jungle we’re living in, but Bichutsky isn’t so sure whether he’s going to maintain his own alpha position. “I’m not going to last another year,” he moans, admitting that he’s been losing followers, and that “everyone gets old and ugly one day.” Even when you’re a success, like Khaled, the hustle is grindingly boring: most of it, in the end, consists of capturing Snaps of things like your tater-tot lunch as you shout, “We the best.” And, clearly, not everyone is as blessed as the social-media impresario. During one montage, viral figures like the “Damn, Daniel” boy, “Salt Bae,” and “Chewbacca Mask Lady” populate the screen, and Ratajkowski muses on these flash-in-the-pan meme sensations: “In three or four days, does anyone remember who that person is? I don’t know.”

    The idea of achieving some sort of longevity, or at least managing to cash in on one’s viral hit, is one that preoccupies the influencers featured in “The American Meme.” “I’m thirty; pray for me,” Furlan mutters, dryly, from her spot posing on her bare living-room floor. In that sense, Paris Hilton, an executive producer of the film and also one of its subjects, is the model everyone is looking to. Hilton has managed to continue playing the game by solidifying her brand—that of a ditsy, sexy, spoiled heiress. Rather than promoting others’ products, like most influencers, she has yoked her fame to merchandise of her own: a best-selling perfume line, pet products, clothes, a lucrative d.j. career, and on and on.

    #Influenceurs #Instagram #Culture_numérique


  • The Complicated Legacy of Stewart Brand’s “Whole Earth Catalog” | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/news/letter-from-silicon-valley/the-complicated-legacy-of-stewart-brands-whole-earth-catalog

    At the height of the civil-rights movement and the war in Vietnam, the “Whole Earth Catalog” offered a vision for a new social order—one that eschewed institutions in favor of individual empowerment, achieved through the acquisition of skills and tools. The latter category included agricultural equipment, weaving kits, mechanical devices, books like “Kibbutz: Venture in Utopia,” and digital technologies and related theoretical texts, such as Norbert Wiener’s “Cybernetics” and the Hewlett-Packard 9100A, a programmable calculator. “We are as gods and might as well get used to it” read the first catalogue’s statement of purpose. “A realm of intimate, personal power is developing—power of the individual to conduct his own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested.”

    The communes eventually collapsed, for the usual reasons, which included poor resource management, factionalism, and financial limitations. But the “Whole Earth Catalog,” which published quarterly through 1971 and sporadically thereafter, garnered a cult following that included founders of Airbnb and Stripe and also early employees of Facebook.

    Last month, on a brisk and blindingly sunny Saturday, over a hundred alumni of the “Whole Earth Catalog” network—Merry Pranksters, communards, hippies, hackers, entrepreneurs, journalists, and futurists—gathered to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the publication, and, per the invitation, to come together “one last time.” The event was held at the San Francisco Art Institute, a renovated wharf warehouse with vaulted ceilings, views of Alcatraz, and the cool sterility of an empty art gallery. A number of early-Internet architects, including Larry Brilliant, Lee Felsenstein, and Ted Nelson, floated around the room. Several alumni had scribbled their well usernames onto their badges.

    A week after the reunion, Brand and I spoke over the phone, and he emphasized that he had little nostalgia for “Whole Earth.” “ ‘The Whole Earth Catalog’ is well and truly obsolete and extinct,” he said. “There’s this sort of abiding interest in it, or what it was involved in, back in the day, and so the reunion was a way for the perpetrators to get together and have a drink and piss on the grave.” Brand continued, “There’s pieces being written on the East Coast about how I’m to blame for everything,” from sexism in the back-to-the-land communes to the monopolies of Google, Amazon, and Apple. “The people who are using my name as a source of good or ill things going on in cyberspace, most of them don’t know me at all,” he said. “They’re just using a shorthand. You know, magical realism: Borges. You mention a few names so you don’t have to go down the whole list. It’s a cognitive shortcut.”

    Brand now describes himself as “post-libertarian,” a shift he attributes to a brief stint working with Jerry Brown, during his first term as California’s governor, in the nineteen-seventies, and to books like Michael Lewis’s “The Fifth Risk,” which describes the Trump Administration’s damage to vital federal agencies. “ ‘Whole Earth Catalog’ was very libertarian, but that’s because it was about people in their twenties, and everybody then was reading Robert Heinlein and asserting themselves and all that stuff,” Brand said. “We didn’t know what government did. The whole government apparatus is quite wonderful, and quite crucial. [It] makes me frantic, that it’s being taken away.” A few weeks after our conversation, Brand spoke at a conference, in Prague, hosted by the Ethereum Foundation, which supports an eponymous, open-source, blockchain-based computing platform and cryptocurrency. In his address, he apologized for over-valorizing hackers. “Frankly,” he said, “most of the real engineering was done by people with narrow ties who worked nine to five, often with federal money.”

    While antagonism between millennials and boomers is a Freudian trope, Brand’s generation will leave behind a frightening, if unintentional, inheritance. My generation, and those after us, are staring down a ravaged environment, eviscerated institutions, and the increasing erosion of democracy. In this context, the long-term view is as seductive as the apolitical, inward turn of the communards from the nineteen-sixties. What a luxury it is to be released from politics––to picture it all panning out.

    #Stewart_Brand #Utopie_numérique


  • Cheap Words | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/02/17/cheap-words

    Amazon is a global superstore, like Walmart. It’s also a hardware manufacturer, like Apple, and a utility, like Con Edison, and a video distributor, like Netflix, and a book publisher, like Random House, and a production studio, like Paramount, and a literary magazine, like The Paris Review, and a grocery deliverer, like FreshDirect, and someday it might be a package service, like U.P.S. Its founder and chief executive, Jeff Bezos, also owns a major newspaper, the Washington Post. All these streams and tributaries make Amazon something radically new in the history of American business.

    Recently, Amazon even started creating its own “content”—publishing books. The results have been decidedly mixed. A monopoly is dangerous because it concentrates so much economic power, but in the book business the prospect of a single owner of both the means of production and the modes of distribution is especially worrisome: it would give Amazon more control over the exchange of ideas than any company in U.S. history. Even in the iPhone age, books remain central to American intellectual life, and perhaps to democracy. And so the big question is not just whether Amazon is bad for the book industry; it’s whether Amazon is bad for books.

    According to Marcus, Amazon executives considered publishing people “antediluvian losers with rotary phones and inventory systems designed in 1968 and warehouses full of crap.” Publishers kept no data on customers, making their bets on books a matter of instinct rather than metrics. They were full of inefficiences, starting with overpriced Manhattan offices. There was “a general feeling that the New York publishing business was just this cloistered, Gilded Age antique just barely getting by in a sort of Colonial Williamsburg of commerce, but when Amazon waded into this they would show publishing how it was done.”

    During the 1999 holiday season, Amazon tried publishing books, leasing the rights to a defunct imprint called Weathervane and putting out a few titles. “These were not incipient best-sellers,” Marcus writes. “They were creatures from the black lagoon of the remainder table”—Christmas recipes and the like, selected with no apparent thought. Employees with publishing experience, like Fried, were not consulted. Weathervane fell into an oblivion so complete that there’s no trace of it on the Internet. (Representatives at the company today claim never to have heard of it.) Nobody at Amazon seemed to absorb any lessons from the failure. A decade later, the company would try again.

    Around this time, a group called the “personalization team,” or P13N, started to replace editorial suggestions for readers with algorithms that used customers’ history to make recommendations for future purchases. At Amazon, “personalization” meant data analytics and statistical probability. Author interviews became less frequent, and in-house essays were subsumed by customer reviews, which cost the company nothing. Tim Appelo, the entertainment editor at the time, said, “You could be the Platonic ideal of the reviewer, and you would not beat even those rather crude early algorithms.” Amazon’s departments competed with one another almost as fiercely as they did with other companies. According to Brad Stone, a trash-talking sign was hung on a wall in the P13N office: “people forget that john henry died in the end.” Machines defeated human beings.

    In December, 1999, at the height of the dot-com mania, Time named Bezos its Person of the Year. “Amazon isn’t about technology or even commerce,” the breathless cover article announced. “Amazon is, like every other site on the Web, a content play.” Yet this was the moment, Marcus said, when “content” people were “on the way out.” Although the writers and the editors made the site more interesting, and easier to navigate, they didn’t bring more customers.

    The fact that Amazon once devoted significant space on its site to editorial judgments—to thinking and writing—would be an obscure footnote if not for certain turns in the company’s more recent history. According to one insider, around 2008—when the company was selling far more than books, and was making twenty billion dollars a year in revenue, more than the combined sales of all other American bookstores—Amazon began thinking of content as central to its business. Authors started to be considered among the company’s most important customers. By then, Amazon had lost much of the market in selling music and videos to Apple and Netflix, and its relations with publishers were deteriorating. These difficulties offended Bezos’s ideal of “seamless” commerce. “The company despises friction in the marketplace,” the Amazon insider said. “It’s easier for us to sell books and make books happen if we do it our way and not deal with others. It’s a tech-industry thing: ‘We think we can do it better.’ ” If you could control the content, you controlled everything.

    Many publishers had come to regard Amazon as a heavy in khakis and oxford shirts. In its drive for profitability, Amazon did not raise retail prices; it simply squeezed its suppliers harder, much as Walmart had done with manufacturers. Amazon demanded ever-larger co-op fees and better shipping terms; publishers knew that they would stop being favored by the site’s recommendation algorithms if they didn’t comply. Eventually, they all did. (Few customers realize that the results generated by Amazon’s search engine are partly determined by promotional fees.)

    In late 2007, at a press conference in New York, Bezos unveiled the Kindle, a simple, lightweight device that—in a crucial improvement over previous e-readers—could store as many as two hundred books, downloaded from Amazon’s 3G network. Bezos announced that the price of best-sellers and new titles would be nine-ninety-nine, regardless of length or quality—a figure that Bezos, inspired by Apple’s sale of songs on iTunes for ninety-nine cents, basically pulled out of thin air. Amazon had carefully concealed the number from publishers. “We didn’t want to let that cat out of the bag,” Steele said.

    The price was below wholesale in some cases, and so low that it represented a serious threat to the market in twenty-six-dollar hardcovers. Bookstores that depended on hardcover sales—from Barnes & Noble and Borders (which liquidated its business in 2011) to Rainy Day Books in Kansas City—glimpsed their possible doom. If reading went entirely digital, what purpose would they serve? The next year, 2008, which brought the financial crisis, was disastrous for bookstores and publishers alike, with widespread layoffs.

    By 2010, Amazon controlled ninety per cent of the market in digital books—a dominance that almost no company, in any industry, could claim. Its prohibitively low prices warded off competition.

    Publishers looked around for a competitor to Amazon, and they found one in Apple, which was getting ready to introduce the iPad, and the iBooks Store. Apple wanted a deal with each of the Big Six houses (Hachette, HarperCollins, Macmillan, Penguin, Random House, and Simon & Schuster) that would allow the publishers to set the retail price of titles on iBooks, with Apple taking a thirty-per-cent commission on each sale. This was known as the “agency model,” and, in some ways, it offered the publishers a worse deal than selling wholesale to Amazon. But it gave publishers control over pricing and a way to challenge Amazon’s grip on the market. Apple’s terms included the provision that it could match the price of any rival, which induced the publishers to impose the agency model on all digital retailers, including Amazon.

    Five of the Big Six went along with Apple. (Random House was the holdout.) Most of the executives let Amazon know of the change by phone or e-mail, but John Sargent flew out to Seattle to meet with four Amazon executives, including Russ Grandinetti, the vice-president of Kindle content. In an e-mail to a friend, Sargent wrote, “Am on my way out to Seattle to get my ass kicked by Amazon.”

    Sargent’s gesture didn’t seem to matter much to the Amazon executives, who were used to imposing their own terms. Seated at a table in a small conference room, Sargent said that Macmillan wanted to switch to the agency model for e-books, and that if Amazon refused Macmillan would withhold digital editions until seven months after print publication. The discussion was angry and brief. After twenty minutes, Grandinetti escorted Sargent out of the building. The next day, Amazon removed the buy buttons from Macmillan’s print and digital titles on its site, only to restore them a week later, under heavy criticism. Amazon unwillingly accepted the agency model, and within a couple of months e-books were selling for as much as fourteen dollars and ninety-nine cents.

    Amazon filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. In April, 2012, the Justice Department sued Apple and the five publishers for conspiring to raise prices and restrain competition. Eventually, all the publishers settled with the government. (Macmillan was the last, after Sargent learned that potential damages could far exceed the equity value of the company.) Macmillan was obliged to pay twenty million dollars, and Penguin seventy-five million—enormous sums in a business that has always struggled to maintain respectable profit margins.

    Apple fought the charges, and the case went to trial last June. Grandinetti, Sargent, and others testified in the federal courthouse in lower Manhattan. As proof of collusion, the government presented evidence of e-mails, phone calls, and dinners among the Big Six publishers during their negotiations with Apple. Sargent and other executives acknowledged that they wanted higher prices for e-books, but they argued that the evidence showed them only to be competitors in an incestuous business, not conspirators. On July 10th, Judge Denise Cote ruled in the government’s favor.

    Apple, facing up to eight hundred and forty million dollars in damages, has appealed. As Apple and the publishers see it, the ruling ignored the context of the case: when the key events occurred, Amazon effectively had a monopoly in digital books and was selling them so cheaply that it resembled predatory pricing—a barrier to entry for potential competitors. Since then, Amazon’s share of the e-book market has dropped, levelling off at about sixty-five per cent, with the rest going largely to Apple and to Barnes & Noble, which sells the Nook e-reader. In other words, before the feds stepped in, the agency model introduced competition to the market. But the court’s decision reflected a trend in legal thinking among liberals and conservatives alike, going back to the seventies, that looks at antitrust cases from the perspective of consumers, not producers: what matters is lowering prices, even if that goal comes at the expense of competition.

    With Amazon’s patented 1-Click shopping, which already knows your address and credit-card information, there’s just you and the buy button; transactions are as quick and thoughtless as scratching an itch. “It’s sort of a masturbatory culture,” the marketing executive said. If you pay seventy-nine dollars annually to become an Amazon Prime member, a box with the Amazon smile appears at your door two days after you click, with free shipping. Amazon’s next frontier is same-day delivery: first in certain American cities, then throughout the U.S., then the world. In December, the company patented “anticipatory shipping,” which will use your shopping data to put items that you don’t yet know you want to buy, but will soon enough, on a truck or in a warehouse near you.

    Amazon employs or subcontracts tens of thousands of warehouse workers, with seasonal variation, often building its fulfillment centers in areas with high unemployment and low wages. Accounts from inside the centers describe the work of picking, boxing, and shipping books and dog food and beard trimmers as a high-tech version of the dehumanized factory floor satirized in Chaplin’s “Modern Times.” Pickers holding computerized handsets are perpetually timed and measured as they fast-walk up to eleven miles per shift around a million-square-foot warehouse, expected to collect orders in as little as thirty-three seconds. After watching footage taken by an undercover BBC reporter, a stress expert said, “The evidence shows increased risk of mental illness and physical illness.” The company says that its warehouse jobs are “similar to jobs in many other industries.”

    When I spoke with Grandinetti, he expressed sympathy for publishers faced with upheaval. “The move to people reading digitally and buying books digitally is the single biggest change that any of us in the book business will experience in our time,” he said. “Because the change is particularly big in size, and because we happen to be a leader in making it, a lot of that fear gets projected onto us.” Bezos also argues that Amazon’s role is simply to usher in inevitable change. After giving “60 Minutes” a first glimpse of Amazon drone delivery, Bezos told Charlie Rose, “Amazon is not happening to bookselling. The future is happening to bookselling.”

    In Grandinetti’s view, the Kindle “has helped the book business make a more orderly transition to a mixed print and digital world than perhaps any other medium.” Compared with people who work in music, movies, and newspapers, he said, authors are well positioned to thrive. The old print world of scarcity—with a limited number of publishers and editors selecting which manuscripts to publish, and a limited number of bookstores selecting which titles to carry—is yielding to a world of digital abundance. Grandinetti told me that, in these new circumstances, a publisher’s job “is to build a megaphone.”

    After the Kindle came out, the company established Amazon Publishing, which is now a profitable empire of digital works: in addition to Kindle Singles, it has mystery, thriller, romance, and Christian lines; it publishes translations and reprints; it has a self-service fan-fiction platform; and it offers an extremely popular self-publishing platform. Authors become Amazon partners, earning up to seventy per cent in royalties, as opposed to the fifteen per cent that authors typically make on hardcovers. Bezos touts the biggest successes, such as Theresa Ragan, whose self-published thrillers and romances have been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. But one survey found that half of all self-published authors make less than five hundred dollars a year.

    Every year, Fine distributes grants of twenty-five thousand dollars, on average, to dozens of hard-up literary organizations. Beneficiaries include the pen American Center, the Loft Literary Center, in Minneapolis, and the magazine Poets & Writers. “For Amazon, it’s the cost of doing business, like criminal penalties for banks,” the arts manager said, suggesting that the money keeps potential critics quiet. Like liberal Democrats taking Wall Street campaign contributions, the nonprofits don’t advertise the grants. When the Best Translated Book Award received money from Amazon, Dennis Johnson, of Melville House, which had received the prize that year, announced that his firm would no longer compete for it. “Every translator in America wrote me saying I was a son of a bitch,” Johnson said. A few nonprofit heads privately told him, “I wanted to speak out, but I might have taken four thousand dollars from them, too.” A year later, at the Associated Writing Programs conference, Fine shook Johnson’s hand, saying, “I just wanted to thank you—that was the best publicity we could have had.” (Fine denies this.)

    By producing its own original work, Amazon can sell more devices and sign up more Prime members—a major source of revenue. While the company was building the Kindle, it started a digital store for streaming music and videos, and, around the same time it launched Amazon Publishing, it created Amazon Studios.

    The division pursued an unusual way of producing television series, using its strength in data collection. Amazon invited writers to submit scripts on its Web site—“an open platform for content creators,” as Bill Carr, the vice-president for digital music and video, put it. Five thousand scripts poured in, and Amazon chose to develop fourteen into pilots. Last spring, Amazon put the pilots on its site, where customers could review them and answer a detailed questionnaire. (“Please rate the following aspects of this show: The humor, the characters . . . ”) More than a million customers watched. Engineers also developed software, called Amazon Storyteller, which scriptwriters can use to create a “storyboard animatic”—a cartoon rendition of a script’s plot—allowing pilots to be visualized without the expense of filming. The difficulty, according to Carr, is to “get the right feedback and the right data, and, of the many, many data points that I can collect from customers, which ones can tell you, ‘This is the one’?”

    Bezos applying his “take no prisoners” pragmatism to the Post: “There are conflicts of interest with Amazon’s many contracts with the government, and he’s got so many policy issues going, like sales tax.” One ex-employee who worked closely with Bezos warned, “At Amazon, drawing a distinction between content people and business people is a foreign concept.”

    Perhaps buying the Post was meant to be a good civic deed. Bezos has a family foundation, but he has hardly involved himself in philanthropy. In 2010, Charlie Rose asked him what he thought of Bill Gates’s challenge to other billionaires to give away most of their wealth. Bezos didn’t answer. Instead, he launched into a monologue on the virtue of markets in solving social problems, and somehow ended up touting the Kindle.

    Bezos bought a newspaper for much the same reason that he has invested money in a project for commercial space travel: the intellectual challenge. With the Post, the challenge is to turn around a money-losing enterprise in a damaged industry, and perhaps to show a way for newspapers to thrive again.

    Lately, digital titles have levelled off at about thirty per cent of book sales. Whatever the temporary fluctuations in publishers’ profits, the long-term outlook is discouraging. This is partly because Americans don’t read as many books as they used to—they are too busy doing other things with their devices—but also because of the relentless downward pressure on prices that Amazon enforces. The digital market is awash with millions of barely edited titles, most of it dreck, while readers are being conditioned to think that books are worth as little as a sandwich. “Amazon has successfully fostered the idea that a book is a thing of minimal value,” Johnson said. “It’s a widget.”

    There are two ways to think about this. Amazon believes that its approach encourages ever more people to tell their stories to ever more people, and turns writers into entrepreneurs; the price per unit might be cheap, but the higher number of units sold, and the accompanying royalties, will make authors wealthier. Jane Friedman, of Open Road, is unfazed by the prospect that Amazon might destroy the old model of publishing. “They are practicing the American Dream—competition is good!” she told me. Publishers, meanwhile, “have been banks for authors. Advances have been very high.” In Friedman’s view, selling digital books at low prices will democratize reading: “What do you want as an author—to sell books to as few people as possible for as much as possible, or for as little as possible to as many readers as possible?”

    The answer seems self-evident, but there is a more skeptical view. Several editors, agents, and authors told me that the money for serious fiction and nonfiction has eroded dramatically in recent years; advances on mid-list titles—books that are expected to sell modestly but whose quality gives them a strong chance of enduring—have declined by a quarter.

    #Amazon


  • Bob Dylan’s Masterpiece, “Blood on the Tracks,” Is Still Hard to Find | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/bob-dylans-masterpiece-is-still-hard-to-find

    In September, 1974, Bob Dylan spent four days in the old Studio A, his favorite recording haunt in Manhattan, and emerged with the greatest, darkest album of his career. It is a ten-song study in romantic devastation, as beautiful as it is bleak, worthy of comparison with Schubert’s “Winterreise.” Yet the record in question—“Blood on the Tracks”—has never officially seen the light of day. The Columbia label released an album with that title in January, 1975, but Dylan had reworked five of the songs in last-minute sessions in Minnesota, resulting in a substantial change of tone. Mournfulness and wistfulness gave way to a feisty, festive air. According to Andy Gill and Kevin Odegard, the authors of the book “A Simple Twist of Fate: Bob Dylan and the Making of ‘Blood on the Tracks,’ ” from 2004, Dylan feared a commercial failure. The revised “Blood” sold extremely well, reaching the top of the Billboard album chart, and it ended talk of Dylan’s creative decline. It was not, however, the masterwork of melancholy that he created in Studio A.

    Ultimately, the long-running debate over the competing incarnations of “Blood on the Tracks” misses the point of what makes this artist so infinitely interesting, at least for some of us. Jeff Slate, who wrote liner notes for “More Blood, More Tracks,” observes that Dylan’s work is always in flux. The process that is documented on these eighty-seven tracks is not one of looking for the “right” take; it’s the beginning of an endless sequence of variations, which are still unfolding on his Never-Ending Tour.

    #Bob_Dylan #Musique


  • In the Age of A.I., Is Seeing Still Believing ? | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/11/12/in-the-age-of-ai-is-seeing-still-believing

    In a media environment saturated with fake news, such technology has disturbing implications. Last fall, an anonymous Redditor with the username Deepfakes released a software tool kit that allows anyone to make synthetic videos in which a neural network substitutes one person’s face for another’s, while keeping their expressions consistent. Along with the kit, the user posted pornographic videos, now known as “deepfakes,” that appear to feature various Hollywood actresses. (The software is complex but comprehensible: “Let’s say for example we’re perving on some innocent girl named Jessica,” one tutorial reads. “The folders you create would be: ‘jessica; jessica_faces; porn; porn_faces; model; output.’ ”) Around the same time, “Synthesizing Obama,” a paper published by a research group at the University of Washington, showed that a neural network could create believable videos in which the former President appeared to be saying words that were really spoken by someone else. In a video voiced by Jordan Peele, Obama seems to say that “President Trump is a total and complete dipshit,” and warns that “how we move forward in the age of information” will determine “whether we become some kind of fucked-up dystopia.”

    “People have been doing synthesis for a long time, with different tools,” he said. He rattled off various milestones in the history of image manipulation: the transposition, in a famous photograph from the eighteen-sixties, of Abraham Lincoln’s head onto the body of the slavery advocate John C. Calhoun; the mass alteration of photographs in Stalin’s Russia, designed to purge his enemies from the history books; the convenient realignment of the pyramids on the cover of National Geographic, in 1982; the composite photograph of John Kerry and Jane Fonda standing together at an anti-Vietnam demonstration, which incensed many voters after the Times credulously reprinted it, in 2004, above a story about Kerry’s antiwar activities.

    “In the past, anybody could buy Photoshop. But to really use it well you had to be highly skilled,” Farid said. “Now the technology is democratizing.” It used to be safe to assume that ordinary people were incapable of complex image manipulations. Farid recalled a case—a bitter divorce—in which a wife had presented the court with a video of her husband at a café table, his hand reaching out to caress another woman’s. The husband insisted it was fake. “I noticed that there was a reflection of his hand in the surface of the table,” Farid said, “and getting the geometry exactly right would’ve been really hard.” Now convincing synthetic images and videos were becoming easier to make.

    The acceleration of home computing has converged with another trend: the mass uploading of photographs and videos to the Web. Later, when I sat down with Efros in his office, he explained that, even in the early two-thousands, computer graphics had been “data-starved”: although 3-D modellers were capable of creating photorealistic scenes, their cities, interiors, and mountainscapes felt empty and lifeless. True realism, Efros said, requires “data, data, data” about “the gunk, the dirt, the complexity of the world,” which is best gathered by accident, through the recording of ordinary life.

    Today, researchers have access to systems like ImageNet, a site run by computer scientists at Stanford and Princeton which brings together fourteen million photographs of ordinary places and objects, most of them casual snapshots posted to Flickr, eBay, and other Web sites. Initially, these images were sorted into categories (carrousels, subwoofers, paper clips, parking meters, chests of drawers) by tens of thousands of workers hired through Amazon Mechanical Turk. Then, in 2012, researchers at the University of Toronto succeeded in building neural networks capable of categorizing ImageNet’s images automatically; their dramatic success helped set off today’s neural-networking boom. In recent years, YouTube has become an unofficial ImageNet for video. Efros’s lab has overcome the site’s “platform bias”—its preference for cats and pop stars—by developing a neural network that mines, from “life style” videos such as “My Spring Morning Routine” and “My Rustic, Cozy Living Room,” clips of people opening packages, peering into fridges, drying off with towels, brushing their teeth. This vast archive of the uninteresting has made a new level of synthetic realism possible.

    In 2016, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) launched a program in Media Forensics, or MediFor, focussed on the threat that synthetic media poses to national security. Matt Turek, the program’s manager, ticked off possible manipulations when we spoke: “Objects that are cut and pasted into images. The removal of objects from a scene. Faces that might be swapped. Audio that is inconsistent with the video. Images that appear to be taken at a certain time and place but weren’t.” He went on, “What I think we’ll see, in a couple of years, is the synthesis of events that didn’t happen. Multiple images and videos taken from different perspectives will be constructed in such a way that they look like they come from different cameras. It could be something nation-state driven, trying to sway political or military action. It could come from a small, low-resource group. Potentially, it could come from an individual.”

    As with today’s text-based fake news, the problem is double-edged. Having been deceived by a fake video, one begins to wonder whether many real videos are fake. Eventually, skepticism becomes a strategy in itself. In 2016, when the “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced, Donald Trump acknowledged its accuracy while dismissing his statements as “locker-room talk.” Now Trump suggests to associates that “we don’t think that was my voice.”

    “The larger danger is plausible deniability,” Farid told me. It’s here that the comparison with counterfeiting breaks down. No cashier opens up the register hoping to find counterfeit bills. In politics, however, it’s often in our interest not to believe what we are seeing.

    As alarming as synthetic media may be, it may be more alarming that we arrived at our current crises of misinformation—Russian election hacking; genocidal propaganda in Myanmar; instant-message-driven mob violence in India—without it. Social media was enough to do the job, by turning ordinary people into media manipulators who will say (or share) anything to win an argument. The main effect of synthetic media may be to close off an escape route from the social-media bubble. In 2014, video of the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner helped start the Black Lives Matter movement; footage of the football player Ray Rice assaulting his fiancée catalyzed a reckoning with domestic violence in the National Football League. It seemed as though video evidence, by turning us all into eyewitnesses, might provide a path out of polarization and toward reality. With the advent of synthetic media, all that changes. Body cameras may still capture what really happened, but the aesthetic of the body camera—its claim to authenticity—is also a vector for misinformation. “Eyewitness video” becomes an oxymoron. The path toward reality begins to wash away.

    #Fake_news #Image #Synthèse


  • The Growth of Sinclair’s Conservative Media Empire | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/10/22/the-growth-of-sinclairs-conservative-media-empire

    Sinclair is the largest owner of television stations in the United States, with a hundred and ninety-two stations in eighty-nine markets. It reaches thirty-nine per cent of American viewers. The company’s executive chairman, David D. Smith, is a conservative whose views combine a suspicion of government, an aversion to political correctness, and strong libertarian leanings. Smith, who is sixty-eight, has a thick neck, deep under-eye bags, and a head of silvery hair. He is an enthusiast of fine food and has owned farm-to-table restaurants in Harbor East, an upscale neighborhood in Baltimore. An ardent supporter of Donald Trump, he has not been shy about using his stations to advance his political ideology. Sinclair employees say that the company orders them to air biased political segments produced by the corporate news division, including editorials by the conservative commentator Mark Hyman, and that it feeds interviewers questions intended to favor Republicans.

    In some cases, anchors have been compelled to read from scripts prepared by Sinclair. In April, 2018, dozens of newscasters across the country parroted Trump’s invectives about “fake news,” saying, “Some members of the media use their platforms to push their own personal bias and agenda to control exactly what people think. This is extremely dangerous to our democracy.” In response, Dan Rather, the former anchor of “CBS Evening News,” wrote, on Twitter, “News anchors looking into camera and reading a script handed down by a corporate overlord, words meant to obscure the truth not elucidate it, isn’t journalism. It’s propaganda. It’s Orwellian. A slippery slope to how despots wrest power, silence dissent, and oppress the masses.”

    It’s unclear whether Sinclair is attempting to influence the politics of its viewers or simply appealing to positions that viewers may already have—or both. Andrew Schwartzman, a telecommunications lecturer at Georgetown Law School, told me, “I don’t know where their personal philosophy ends and their business goals begin. They’re not the Koch brothers, but they reflect a deep-seated conservatism and generations of libertarian philosophy that also happen to help their business.”

    Sinclair has even greater ambitions for expansion. In May, 2017, the company announced a proposed $3.9-billion merger between Sinclair and Tribune Media Company, which owns forty-two television stations. The merger would make Sinclair far larger than any other broadcaster in the country, with stations beaming into seventy per cent of American households. The proposal alarmed regulatory and free-speech experts. Michael Copps, a former official at the Federal Communications Commission, told me, “One of the goals of the First Amendment is to make sure the American people have the news and information they need to make intelligent decisions about our democracy, and I think we’re pretty close to a situation where the population lacks the ability to do that. That’s the whole premise of self-government.” He went on, “There are a lot of problems facing our country, but I don’t know one as important as this. When you start dismantling our news-and-information infrastructure, that’s poison to self-government and poison to democracy.”

    In subsequent years, Smith took measures to deepen Sinclair’s influence among policymakers, apparently recognizing that the company’s profits were dependent upon regulatory decisions made in Washington. One of Smith’s first notable forays into politics was his support for Robert Ehrlich, Jr., a Republican congressman who represented Maryland from 1995 until 2003. Sinclair became a top donor to Ehrlich and, in 2001, Ehrlich sent the first of several letters on Sinclair’s behalf to Michael Powell, who had recently become the chair of the F.C.C. The commission was investigating a request from Sinclair to buy a new group of stations, and Ehrlich protested the “unnecessary delays on pending applications.” The F.C.C.’s assistant general counsel responded that Ehrlich’s communication had violated procedural rules. Ehrlich sent another message, alleging that the delays were politically motivated and threatening to “call for a congressional investigation into this matter.” He added, “Knowing that you have served as Chairman for a few short months, we would prefer to give you an opportunity to address these concerns.” The proposed acquisitions were approved.

    A former general-assignment reporter at the station, Jonathan Beaton, told me, “Almost immediately, I could tell it was a very corrupt culture, where you knew from top down there were certain stories you weren’t going to cover. They wanted you to keep your head down and not upset the fruit basket. I’m a Republican, and I was still appalled by what I saw at Sinclair.” Beaton characterized the man-on-the-street segments as “Don’t forget to grab some random poor soul on the street and shove a microphone in their face and talk about what the Democrats have done wrong.” He said that reporters generally complied because of an atmosphere of “intimidation and fear.”

    After Trump’s victory, it looked as though Sinclair’s investment in the candidate would pay off. In January, 2017, Trump appointed Ajit Pai, a vocal proponent of media deregulation, to be the chair of the F.C.C. Pai, formerly an associate general counsel at Verizon and an aide to Senators Jeff Sessions and Sam Brownback, was exactly the sort of commission head that Sinclair had been hoping for. He believed that competition from technology companies such as Google had made many government restrictions on traditional media irrelevant—an argument that echoed Smith’s views on ownership caps and other regulations. Sinclair executives quickly tried to cultivate a relationship with Pai; shortly after the election, he addressed a gathering of Sinclair managers at the Four Seasons in Baltimore. He also met with David Smith and Sinclair’s C.E.O., Christopher Ripley, the day before Trump’s Inauguration.

    It’s not unusual for business executives to meet with the chair of the F.C.C., but Pai soon announced a series of policy changes that seemed designed to help Sinclair. The first was the reinstatement of the ultrahigh-frequency discount, an arcane rule that digital technology had rendered obsolete. The move served no practical purpose, but it freed Sinclair to acquire many more stations without bumping up against the national cap.

    The F.C.C. soon made other regulatory modifications that were helpful to Sinclair. It eliminated a rule requiring television stations to maintain at least one local studio in licensed markets, essentially legitimatizing Sinclair’s centralized news model. Perhaps most perniciously, Pai took steps toward approving a new broadcast-transmission standard called Next Gen TV, which would require all consumers in the U.S. to purchase new televisions or converter devices. A subsidiary of Sinclair owns six patents necessary for the new standard, which could mean billions of dollars in earnings for the company. Jessica Rosenworcel, the sole Democratic commissioner at the F.C.C., told me, “It’s striking that all of our media policy decisions seem almost custom-built for this one company. Something is wrong.” Rosenworcel acknowledged that many F.C.C. policies need to be modernized, but, she said, “broadcasting is unique. It uses the public airwaves, it’s a public trust.” She added, “I don’t think those ideas are retrograde. They are values we should sustain.”

    The F.C.C. and the D.O.J. both warned Sinclair about the dummy divestitures, insisting that the company find independent owners in ten problematic markets. According to a lawsuit later filed by Tribune, instead of taking steps to appease regulators, Sinclair executives “antagonized DOJ and FCC staff” by acting “confrontational” and “belittling.” The company offered to make sales in only four of the markets, and told the Justice Department that it would have to litigate for any further concessions. One Sinclair lawyer told government representatives, “Sue me.” There was no tactical reason for Sinclair to take such a combative and self-sabotaging stance. Instead, the episode seemed to reflect how Trump’s own corruption and conflicts of interest have filtered into the business community. One industry expert who followed the proceedings closely told me that the company clearly “felt that, with the President behind them, why would the commission deny them anything?

    Then, in April, the Web site Deadspin edited the broadcasts of Sinclair anchors reciting the script about fake news into one terrifying montage, with a tapestry of anchors in different cities speaking in unison. The video ignited public outrage, and Trump tweeted a defense of Sinclair, calling it “far superior to CNN and even more Fake NBC, which is a total joke.” (In a statement, a spokesperson for Sinclair said, “This message was not presented as news and was not intended to be political—there was no mention of President Trump, political parties, policy issues, etc. It was a business objective centered on attracting more viewers.”)

    #Médias #Concentration #Dérégulation #Etats-Unis #Sinclair


  • What Public Life Used to Look Like in San Francisco’s Mission District | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/culture/photo-booth/what-public-life-used-to-look-like-in-san-franciscos-mission-district

    Fabuleuses photos de The Mission à San Francisco

    The photographer Janet Delaney first came to San Francisco in 1967, for the Summer of Love. By the time she began living in the Mission, in the nineteen-eighties, she had learned Spanish and trained herself to recognize moments of quiet revelation in the streets. “I’ve always seen San Francisco as a small place where big things happen,” she says. “There’s a kind of freedom in being on the West Coast, as if your parents aren’t around.” She was an interloper in the Mission, not having been raised there. And yet, like many new arrivals, she found her place—and her subject—by studying the people for whom it was home.

    The area was busy and fast-moving then, with domestic culture spilling out onto the public turf. Photographing life in the streets was fluid and spontaneous work—“like shooting from the solar plexus,” Delaney says—and often it was unclear what she had until she got back to her darkroom. In this way, she was capturing, not composing; gathering, not trying to bear out a story. In time, though, a story did form in her photographs, much as a drift grows from accumulated flakes of snow. The story was about the inflow of culture that kept a pluralistic district alive—and the way that this flow drove life into the local streets, and then beyond them, toward a bigger world.

    #San_Francisco #The_Mission #Photographies


  • The Unlikely Politics of a Digital Contraceptive | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/tech/annals-of-technology/the-unlikely-politics-of-a-digital-contraceptive

    In August, the F.D.A. announced that it had allowed a new form of contraception on the market: a mobile app called Natural Cycles. The app, which was designed by a Swedish particle physicist, asks its users to record their temperature with a Natural Cycles-branded thermometer each morning, and to log when they have their periods. Using a proprietary algorithm, the app informs its users which days they are infertile (green days—as in, go ahead, have fun) and which they are fertile (red days—proceed with caution), so that they can either abstain or use a backup method of birth control. In clearing the app as a medical device, the F.D.A. inaugurated “software application for contraception” as a new category of birth control under which similar products can now apply to be classified. The F.D.A.’s press release quotes Terri Cornelison, a doctor in its Center for Devices and Radiological Health, who said, “Consumers are increasingly using digital health technologies to inform their everyday health decisions and this new app can provide an effective method of contraception if it’s used carefully and correctly.”

    On touche vraiment au grand Ogin’importe quoi.

    In January, a single hospital in Stockholm alerted authorities that thirty-seven women who had sought abortions in a four-month period had all become pregnant while using Natural Cycles as their primary form of contraception. The Swedish Medical Products Agency agreed to investigate. Three weeks ago, that agency concluded that the number of unwanted pregnancies was consistent with the “typical use” failure rate of the app, which they found to be 6.9 per cent. During the six-month investigation, six hundred and seventy-six additional Natural Cycle users in Sweden reported unintended pregnancies, a number that only includes the unwanted pregnancies disclosed directly to the company.

    Berglund’s story—a perfect combination of technology, ease, and self-discovery, peppered with the frisson of good fortune and reliance on what’s natural—has helped convince more than nine hundred thousand people worldwide to register an account with Natural Cycles. But the idea of determining fertile days by tracking ovulation, known as a fertility-awareness-based method of birth control, is anything but new. Fertility awareness is also sometimes called natural family planning, in reference to the Catholic precept that prohibits direct interventions in procreation. The most familiar form of fertility awareness is known as the rhythm method. First designated in the nineteen-thirties, the rhythm or calendar method was based on research by two physicians, one Austrian and one Japanese. If a woman counted the number of days in her cycle, she could make a statistical estimate of when she was most likely to get pregnant. Those methods evolved over the years: in 1935, a German priest named Wilhelm Hillebrand observed that body temperature goes up during ovulation. He recommended that women take their temperature daily to determine their fertile period.

    Plenty of doctors remain unconvinced about Natural Cycles. “It’s as if we’re asking women to go back to the Middle Ages,” Aimee Eyvazzadeh, a fertility specialist in San Francisco, said. Technology, she warned, “is only as reliable as the human being behind it.” Forman, from Columbia, said that “one of the benefits of contraception was being able to dissociate intercourse from procreation.” By taking a pill or inserting a device into an arm or uterus, a woman could enjoy her sexuality without thinking constantly about what day of the month it was. With fertility awareness, Forman said, “it’s in the opposite direction. It’s tying it back together again. You’re having to change your life potentially based on your menstrual cycle. Whereas one of the nice benefits of contraception is that it liberated women from that.”

    #Médecine #Hubris_technologique #Contraception #Comportements


  • Can Mark Zuckerberg Fix Facebook Before It Breaks Democracy? | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/09/17/can-mark-zuckerberg-fix-facebook-before-it-breaks-democracy

    Since 2011, Zuckerberg has lived in a century-old white clapboard Craftsman in the Crescent Park neighborhood, an enclave of giant oaks and historic homes not far from Stanford University. The house, which cost seven million dollars, affords him a sense of sanctuary. It’s set back from the road, shielded by hedges, a wall, and mature trees. Guests enter through an arched wooden gate and follow a long gravel path to a front lawn with a saltwater pool in the center. The year after Zuckerberg bought the house, he and his longtime girlfriend, Priscilla Chan, held their wedding in the back yard, which encompasses gardens, a pond, and a shaded pavilion. Since then, they have had two children, and acquired a seven-hundred-acre estate in Hawaii, a ski retreat in Montana, and a four-story town house on Liberty Hill, in San Francisco. But the family’s full-time residence is here, a ten-minute drive from Facebook’s headquarters.

    Occasionally, Zuckerberg records a Facebook video from the back yard or the dinner table, as is expected of a man who built his fortune exhorting employees to keep “pushing the world in the direction of making it a more open and transparent place.” But his appetite for personal openness is limited. Although Zuckerberg is the most famous entrepreneur of his generation, he remains elusive to everyone but a small circle of family and friends, and his efforts to protect his privacy inevitably attract attention. The local press has chronicled his feud with a developer who announced plans to build a mansion that would look into Zuckerberg’s master bedroom. After a legal fight, the developer gave up, and Zuckerberg spent forty-four million dollars to buy the houses surrounding his. Over the years, he has come to believe that he will always be the subject of criticism. “We’re not—pick your noncontroversial business—selling dog food, although I think that people who do that probably say there is controversy in that, too, but this is an inherently cultural thing,” he told me, of his business. “It’s at the intersection of technology and psychology, and it’s very personal.”

    At the same time, former Facebook executives, echoing a growing body of research, began to voice misgivings about the company’s role in exacerbating isolation, outrage, and addictive behaviors. One of the largest studies, published last year in the American Journal of Epidemiology, followed the Facebook use of more than five thousand people over three years and found that higher use correlated with self-reported declines in physical health, mental health, and life satisfaction. At an event in November, 2017, Sean Parker, Facebook’s first president, called himself a “conscientious objector” to social media, saying, “God only knows what it’s doing to our children’s brains.” A few days later, Chamath Palihapitiya, the former vice-president of user growth, told an audience at Stanford, “The short-term, dopamine-driven feedback loops that we have created are destroying how society works—no civil discourse, no coöperation, misinformation, mistruth.” Palihapitiya, a prominent Silicon Valley figure who worked at Facebook from 2007 to 2011, said, “I feel tremendous guilt. I think we all knew in the back of our minds.” Of his children, he added, “They’re not allowed to use this shit.” (Facebook replied to the remarks in a statement, noting that Palihapitiya had left six years earlier, and adding, “Facebook was a very different company back then.”)

    In March, Facebook was confronted with an even larger scandal: the Times and the British newspaper the Observer reported that a researcher had gained access to the personal information of Facebook users and sold it to Cambridge Analytica, a consultancy hired by Trump and other Republicans which advertised using “psychographic” techniques to manipulate voter behavior. In all, the personal data of eighty-seven million people had been harvested. Moreover, Facebook had known of the problem since December of 2015 but had said nothing to users or regulators. The company acknowledged the breach only after the press discovered it.

    We spoke at his home, at his office, and by phone. I also interviewed four dozen people inside and outside the company about its culture, his performance, and his decision-making. I found Zuckerberg straining, not always coherently, to grasp problems for which he was plainly unprepared. These are not technical puzzles to be cracked in the middle of the night but some of the subtlest aspects of human affairs, including the meaning of truth, the limits of free speech, and the origins of violence.

    Zuckerberg is now at the center of a full-fledged debate about the moral character of Silicon Valley and the conscience of its leaders. Leslie Berlin, a historian of technology at Stanford, told me, “For a long time, Silicon Valley enjoyed an unencumbered embrace in America. And now everyone says, Is this a trick? And the question Mark Zuckerberg is dealing with is: Should my company be the arbiter of truth and decency for two billion people? Nobody in the history of technology has dealt with that.”

    In 2002, Zuckerberg went to Harvard, where he embraced the hacker mystique, which celebrates brilliance in pursuit of disruption. “The ‘fuck you’ to those in power was very strong,” the longtime friend said. In 2004, as a sophomore, he embarked on the project whose origin story is now well known: the founding of Thefacebook.com with four fellow-students (“the” was dropped the following year); the legal battles over ownership, including a suit filed by twin brothers, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, accusing Zuckerberg of stealing their idea; the disclosure of embarrassing messages in which Zuckerberg mocked users for giving him so much data (“they ‘trust me.’ dumb fucks,” he wrote); his regrets about those remarks, and his efforts, in the years afterward, to convince the world that he has left that mind-set behind.

    New hires learned that a crucial measure of the company’s performance was how many people had logged in to Facebook on six of the previous seven days, a measurement known as L6/7. “You could say it’s how many people love this service so much they use it six out of seven days,” Parakilas, who left the company in 2012, said. “But, if your job is to get that number up, at some point you run out of good, purely positive ways. You start thinking about ‘Well, what are the dark patterns that I can use to get people to log back in?’ ”

    Facebook engineers became a new breed of behaviorists, tweaking levers of vanity and passion and susceptibility. The real-world effects were striking. In 2012, when Chan was in medical school, she and Zuckerberg discussed a critical shortage of organs for transplant, inspiring Zuckerberg to add a small, powerful nudge on Facebook: if people indicated that they were organ donors, it triggered a notification to friends, and, in turn, a cascade of social pressure. Researchers later found that, on the first day the feature appeared, it increased official organ-donor enrollment more than twentyfold nationwide.

    Sean Parker later described the company’s expertise as “exploiting a vulnerability in human psychology.” The goal: “How do we consume as much of your time and conscious attention as possible?” Facebook engineers discovered that people find it nearly impossible not to log in after receiving an e-mail saying that someone has uploaded a picture of them. Facebook also discovered its power to affect people’s political behavior. Researchers found that, during the 2010 midterm elections, Facebook was able to prod users to vote simply by feeding them pictures of friends who had already voted, and by giving them the option to click on an “I Voted” button. The technique boosted turnout by three hundred and forty thousand people—more than four times the number of votes separating Trump and Clinton in key states in the 2016 race. It became a running joke among employees that Facebook could tilt an election just by choosing where to deploy its “I Voted” button.

    These powers of social engineering could be put to dubious purposes. In 2012, Facebook data scientists used nearly seven hundred thousand people as guinea pigs, feeding them happy or sad posts to test whether emotion is contagious on social media. (They concluded that it is.) When the findings were published, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, they caused an uproar among users, many of whom were horrified that their emotions may have been surreptitiously manipulated. In an apology, one of the scientists wrote, “In hindsight, the research benefits of the paper may not have justified all of this anxiety.”

    Facebook was, in the words of Tristan Harris, a former design ethicist at Google, becoming a pioneer in “ persuasive technology.

    Facebook had adopted a buccaneering motto, “Move fast and break things,” which celebrated the idea that it was better to be flawed and first than careful and perfect. Andrew Bosworth, a former Harvard teaching assistant who is now one of Zuckerberg’s longest-serving lieutenants and a member of his inner circle, explained, “A failure can be a form of success. It’s not the form you want, but it can be a useful thing to how you learn.” In Zuckerberg’s view, skeptics were often just fogies and scolds. “There’s always someone who wants to slow you down,” he said in a commencement address at Harvard last year. “In our society, we often don’t do big things because we’re so afraid of making mistakes that we ignore all the things wrong today if we do nothing. The reality is, anything we do will have issues in the future. But that can’t keep us from starting.”

    In contrast to a traditional foundation, an L.L.C. can lobby and give money to politicians, without as strict a legal requirement to disclose activities. In other words, rather than trying to win over politicians and citizens in places like Newark, Zuckerberg and Chan could help elect politicians who agree with them, and rally the public directly by running ads and supporting advocacy groups. (A spokesperson for C.Z.I. said that it has given no money to candidates; it has supported ballot initiatives through a 501(c)(4) social-welfare organization.) “The whole point of the L.L.C. structure is to allow a coördinated attack,” Rob Reich, a co-director of Stanford’s Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, told me. The structure has gained popularity in Silicon Valley but has been criticized for allowing wealthy individuals to orchestrate large-scale social agendas behind closed doors. Reich said, “There should be much greater transparency, so that it’s not dark. That’s not a criticism of Mark Zuckerberg. It’s a criticism of the law.”

    La question des langues est fondamentale quand il s’agit de réseaux sociaux

    Beginning in 2013, a series of experts on Myanmar met with Facebook officials to warn them that it was fuelling attacks on the Rohingya. David Madden, an entrepreneur based in Myanmar, delivered a presentation to officials at the Menlo Park headquarters, pointing out that the company was playing a role akin to that of the radio broadcasts that spread hatred during the Rwandan genocide. In 2016, C4ADS, a Washington-based nonprofit, published a detailed analysis of Facebook usage in Myanmar, and described a “campaign of hate speech that actively dehumanizes Muslims.” Facebook officials said that they were hiring more Burmese-language reviewers to take down dangerous content, but the company repeatedly declined to say how many had actually been hired. By last March, the situation had become dire: almost a million Rohingya had fled the country, and more than a hundred thousand were confined to internal camps. The United Nations investigator in charge of examining the crisis, which the U.N. has deemed a genocide, said, “I’m afraid that Facebook has now turned into a beast, and not what it was originally intended.” Afterward, when pressed, Zuckerberg repeated the claim that Facebook was “hiring dozens” of additional Burmese-language content reviewers.

    More than three months later, I asked Jes Kaliebe Petersen, the C.E.O. of Phandeeyar, a tech hub in Myanmar, if there had been any progress. “We haven’t seen any tangible change from Facebook,” he told me. “We don’t know how much content is being reported. We don’t know how many people at Facebook speak Burmese. The situation is getting worse and worse here.”

    I saw Zuckerberg the following morning, and asked him what was taking so long. He replied, “I think, fundamentally, we’ve been slow at the same thing in a number of areas, because it’s actually the same problem. But, yeah, I think the situation in Myanmar is terrible.” It was a frustrating and evasive reply. I asked him to specify the problem. He said, “Across the board, the solution to this is we need to move from what is fundamentally a reactive model to a model where we are using technical systems to flag things to a much larger number of people who speak all the native languages around the world and who can just capture much more of the content.”

    Lecture des journaux ou des aggrégateurs ?

    once asked Zuckerberg what he reads to get the news. “I probably mostly read aggregators,” he said. “I definitely follow Techmeme”—a roundup of headlines about his industry—“and the media and political equivalents of that, just for awareness.” He went on, “There’s really no newspaper that I pick up and read front to back. Well, that might be true of most people these days—most people don’t read the physical paper—but there aren’t many news Web sites where I go to browse.”

    A couple of days later, he called me and asked to revisit the subject. “I felt like my answers were kind of vague, because I didn’t necessarily feel like it was appropriate for me to get into which specific organizations or reporters I read and follow,” he said. “I guess what I tried to convey, although I’m not sure if this came across clearly, is that the job of uncovering new facts and doing it in a trusted way is just an absolutely critical function for society.”

    Zuckerberg and Sandberg have attributed their mistakes to excessive optimism, a blindness to the darker applications of their service. But that explanation ignores their fixation on growth, and their unwillingness to heed warnings. Zuckerberg resisted calls to reorganize the company around a new understanding of privacy, or to reconsider the depth of data it collects for advertisers.

    Antitrust

    In barely two years, the mood in Washington had shifted. Internet companies and entrepreneurs, formerly valorized as the vanguard of American ingenuity and the astronauts of our time, were being compared to Standard Oil and other monopolists of the Gilded Age. This spring, the Wall Street Journal published an article that began, “Imagine a not-too-distant future in which trustbusters force Facebook to sell off Instagram and WhatsApp.” It was accompanied by a sepia-toned illustration in which portraits of Zuckerberg, Tim Cook, and other tech C.E.O.s had been grafted onto overstuffed torsos meant to evoke the robber barons. In 1915, Louis Brandeis, the reformer and future Supreme Court Justice, testified before a congressional committee about the dangers of corporations large enough that they could achieve a level of near-sovereignty “so powerful that the ordinary social and industrial forces existing are insufficient to cope with it.” He called this the “curse of bigness.” Tim Wu, a Columbia law-school professor and the author of a forthcoming book inspired by Brandeis’s phrase, told me, “Today, no sector exemplifies more clearly the threat of bigness to democracy than Big Tech.” He added, “When a concentrated private power has such control over what we see and hear, it has a power that rivals or exceeds that of elected government.”

    When I asked Zuckerberg whether policymakers might try to break up Facebook, he replied, adamantly, that such a move would be a mistake. The field is “extremely competitive,” he told me. “I think sometimes people get into this mode of ‘Well, there’s not, like, an exact replacement for Facebook.’ Well, actually, that makes it more competitive, because what we really are is a system of different things: we compete with Twitter as a broadcast medium; we compete with Snapchat as a broadcast medium; we do messaging, and iMessage is default-installed on every iPhone.” He acknowledged the deeper concern. “There’s this other question, which is just, laws aside, how do we feel about these tech companies being big?” he said. But he argued that efforts to “curtail” the growth of Facebook or other Silicon Valley heavyweights would cede the field to China. “I think that anything that we’re doing to constrain them will, first, have an impact on how successful we can be in other places,” he said. “I wouldn’t worry in the near term about Chinese companies or anyone else winning in the U.S., for the most part. But there are all these places where there are day-to-day more competitive situations—in Southeast Asia, across Europe, Latin America, lots of different places.”

    The rough consensus in Washington is that regulators are unlikely to try to break up Facebook. The F.T.C. will almost certainly fine the company for violations, and may consider blocking it from buying big potential competitors, but, as a former F.T.C. commissioner told me, “in the United States you’re allowed to have a monopoly position, as long as you achieve it and maintain it without doing illegal things.”

    Facebook is encountering tougher treatment in Europe, where antitrust laws are stronger and the history of fascism makes people especially wary of intrusions on privacy. One of the most formidable critics of Silicon Valley is the European Union’s top antitrust regulator, Margrethe Vestager.

    In Vestager’s view, a healthy market should produce competitors to Facebook that position themselves as ethical alternatives, collecting less data and seeking a smaller share of user attention. “We need social media that will allow us to have a nonaddictive, advertising-free space,” she said. “You’re more than welcome to be successful and to dramatically outgrow your competitors if customers like your product. But, if you grow to be dominant, you have a special responsibility not to misuse your dominant position to make it very difficult for others to compete against you and to attract potential customers. Of course, we keep an eye on it. If we get worried, we will start looking.”

    Modération

    As hard as it is to curb election propaganda, Zuckerberg’s most intractable problem may lie elsewhere—in the struggle over which opinions can appear on Facebook, which cannot, and who gets to decide. As an engineer, Zuckerberg never wanted to wade into the realm of content. Initially, Facebook tried blocking certain kinds of material, such as posts featuring nudity, but it was forced to create long lists of exceptions, including images of breast-feeding, “acts of protest,” and works of art. Once Facebook became a venue for political debate, the problem exploded. In April, in a call with investment analysts, Zuckerberg said glumly that it was proving “easier to build an A.I. system to detect a nipple than what is hate speech.”

    The cult of growth leads to the curse of bigness: every day, a billion things were being posted to Facebook. At any given moment, a Facebook “content moderator” was deciding whether a post in, say, Sri Lanka met the standard of hate speech or whether a dispute over Korean politics had crossed the line into bullying. Zuckerberg sought to avoid banning users, preferring to be a “platform for all ideas.” But he needed to prevent Facebook from becoming a swamp of hoaxes and abuse. His solution was to ban “hate speech” and impose lesser punishments for “misinformation,” a broad category that ranged from crude deceptions to simple mistakes. Facebook tried to develop rules about how the punishments would be applied, but each idiosyncratic scenario prompted more rules, and over time they became byzantine. According to Facebook training slides published by the Guardian last year, moderators were told that it was permissible to say “You are such a Jew” but not permissible to say “Irish are the best, but really French sucks,” because the latter was defining another people as “inferiors.” Users could not write “Migrants are scum,” because it is dehumanizing, but they could write “Keep the horny migrant teen-agers away from our daughters.” The distinctions were explained to trainees in arcane formulas such as “Not Protected + Quasi protected = not protected.”

    It will hardly be the last quandary of this sort. Facebook’s free-speech dilemmas have no simple answers—you don’t have to be a fan of Alex Jones to be unnerved by the company’s extraordinary power to silence a voice when it chooses, or, for that matter, to amplify others, to pull the levers of what we see, hear, and experience. Zuckerberg is hoping to erect a scalable system, an orderly decision tree that accounts for every eventuality and exception, but the boundaries of speech are a bedevilling problem that defies mechanistic fixes. The Supreme Court, defining obscenity, landed on “I know it when I see it.” For now, Facebook is making do with a Rube Goldberg machine of policies and improvisations, and opportunists are relishing it. Senator Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, seized on the ban of Jones as a fascist assault on conservatives. In a moment that was rich even by Cruz’s standards, he quoted Martin Niemöller’s famous lines about the Holocaust, saying, “As the poem goes, you know, ‘First they came for Alex Jones.’ ”

    #Facebook #Histoire_numérique



  • After Years of Abusive E-mails, the Creator of Linux Steps Aside | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/science/elements/after-years-of-abusive-e-mails-the-creator-of-linux-steps-aside

    Valerie Aurora, a former Linux-kernel contributor, told me that a decade of working in the Linux community convinced her that she could not rise in its hierarchy as a woman. Aurora said that the concept of Torvalds and other powerful tech figures being “equal-opportunity assholes” was false and sexist:

    Vu l’exemple opposé donné sur Python, ça donne envie de se mettre à ce langage en tant que femme.

    #sexisme #code #développement #domination #Torvalds #linux


  • The Deliberate Awfulness of Social Media | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/books/under-review/the-deliberate-awfulness-of-social-media

    The first argument in Jaron Lanier’s recent book, “Ten Arguments for Deleting Your Social Media Accounts Right Now,” is that the nexus of consumer technologies and submerged algorithms, which forms so large a part of contemporary reality, is deliberately engineered to get us hooked. “We’re being hypnotized little by little by technicians we can’t see, for purposes we don’t know,” he writes. “We’re all lab animals now.”

    The problem is the business model based on the manipulation of individual behavior. Social-media platforms know what you’re seeing, and they know how you acted in the immediate aftermath of seeing it, and they can decide what you will see next in order to further determine how you act—a feedback loop that gets progressively tighter until it becomes a binding force on an individual’s free will. One of the more insidious aspects of this model is the extent to which we, as social-media users, replicate its logic at the level of our own activity: we perform market analysis of our own utterances, calculating the reaction a particular post will generate and adjusting our output accordingly. Negative emotions like outrage and contempt and anxiety tend to drive significantly more engagement than positive ones. This toxic miasma of bad vibes—of masochistic pleasures—is not, in Lanier’s view, an epiphenomenon of social media, but rather the fuel on which it has been engineered to run.

    #Twitter #Facebook #seenthis


  • After Years of Abusive E-mails, the Creator of Linux Steps Aside | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/science/elements/after-years-of-abusive-e-mails-the-creator-of-linux-steps-aside?mbid=nl_D

    Torvalds’s decision to step aside came after The New Yorker asked him a series of questions about his conduct for a story on complaints about his abusive behavior discouraging women from working as Linux-kernel programmers. In a response to The New Yorker, Torvalds said, “I am very proud of the Linux code that I invented and the impact it has had on the world. I am not, however, always proud of my inability to communicate well with others—this is a lifelong struggle for me. To anyone whose feelings I have hurt, I am deeply sorry.”

    Although it distributes its product for free, the Linux project has grown to resemble a blue-chip tech company. Nominally a volunteer enterprise, like Wikipedia, Linux, in fact, is primarily sustained by funds and programmers from the world’s large technology companies. Intel, Google, IBM, Samsung, and other companies assign programmers to help improve the code. Of the eighty thousand fixes and improvements to Linux made in the past year, more than ninety per cent were produced by paid programmers, the foundation reported in 2017; Intel employees alone were responsible for thirteen per cent of them. These same companies, and hundreds of others, covered the foundation’s roughly fifty-million-dollar annual budget.

    Linux’s élite developers, who are overwhelmingly male, tend to share their leader’s aggressive self-confidence. There are very few women among the most prolific contributors, though the foundation and researchers estimate that roughly ten per cent of all Linux coders are women. “Everyone in tech knows about it, but Linus gets a pass,” Megan Squire, a computer-science professor at Elon University, told me, referring to Torvalds’s abusive behavior. “He’s built up this cult of personality, this cult of importance.”

    Valerie Aurora, a former Linux-kernel contributor, told me that a decade of working in the Linux community convinced her that she could not rise in its hierarchy as a woman. Aurora said that the concept of Torvalds and other powerful tech figures being “equal-opportunity assholes” was false and sexist: when she and Sharp adopted Torvalds’ aggressive communication style, they experienced retaliation. “Basically, Linus has created a model of leadership—which is being an asshole,” Aurora told me. “Sage and I can tell you that being an asshole was not available to us. If we were an asshole, we got smacked for it, got punished, got held back. I tried it.”

    Torvalds, by contrast, long resisted the idea that the Linux programming team needed to become more diverse, just as he resisted calls to tone down his language. In 2015, Sharp advocated for a first-ever code of conduct for Linux developers. At a minimum, they hoped for a code that would ban doxxing—the releasing of personal information online to foment harassment—and threats of violence in the community. Instead, Torvalds accepted a programming fix provocatively titled “Code of Conflict,” which created a mechanism for filing complaints more generally. In the three years since then, no developers have been disciplined for abusive comments. Sharp, who was employed by Intel at the time, said they carefully avoided Linux kernel work thereafter.

    #Linux #Linus_Torvalds #Genre #Développeurs #Logiciels_libres #Machisme


  • Anita Hill on Weinstein, Trump, and a Watershed Moment for Sexual-Harassment Accusations | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/anita-hill-on-weinstein-trump-and-a-watershed-moment-for-sexual-harassmen

    Anita Hill, a woman with unusual insight into this topic, agrees that the nature of Weinstein’s accusers is the reason that his exposure has proved to be a watershed moment. In a phone interview, Hill emphasized that sexual-harassment cases live and die on the basis of “believability,” and that, in order for the accusers to prevail, “they have to fit a narrative” that the public will buy. At least until now, very few women have had that standing.

    Twenty-six years ago, Hill learned this the hard way, when, as a young Yale Law School graduate, she famously testified that Clarence Thomas was unsuitable for confirmation to the Supreme Court, on the grounds that he had repeatedly harassed her while he served as her boss, at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. (I wrote about the confirmation process and Hill’s allegations in the book “Strange Justice: The Selling of Clarence Thomas.”) Her testimony blasted the subject of workplace sexual harassment into the public consciousness, but it was swept aside by the Senate. In televised public congressional hearings, Hill’s credibility was attacked, her character smeared, and her sworn testimony dismissed as an unresolvable “he said, she said” conflict. After Thomas described the process as a “high-tech lynching”—despite the fact that both he and Hill are African-American—the Senate confirmed him.

    Hill, who is now a law professor at Brandeis University, told me that what Thomas possessed, like many accused harassers, and unlike many accusers, was a winning “narrative.”

    #IBelieveAnita


  • Barcelona’s Experiment in Radical Democracy | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/news/our-columnists/barcelonas-experiment-in-radical-democracy

    The municipalist agenda is intentionally broad; it’s based, as Pin puts it, on common goals rather than differences. As overgeneral and even naïve as that may sound, it has practical implications: municipalism is not trying to distinguish itself from other political parties, in part because it’s not itself a party. Municipalist programs tend to be focussed on the specific needs of a city’s residents and specific programs that address them. In Barcelona, much of the program is focussed on regulating tourist industries in order to improve the lot of local residents, but also to restore some of the city’s particular character that has attracted tourism in the first place.

    As the name makes clear, Barcelona en Comú is focussed on the commons. Colau speaks of the importance of public space often and articulately. “Public space is the place, par excellence, for democracy: this space that belongs to all of us,” she told me. “Therefore, this is also the space of the most vulnerable people, which is what democratic systems should prioritize: the people who have fewer opportunities. If you have little private space, you have more public space and public services—libraries, beaches, parks. It is the space to meet with others, but also it’s a space where you can be who you want to be—this is the space for freedom. And, therefore, it is a space where you can build up the city with others. So, from that point of view, the more public space there is, and the better its quality, the better the quality of the democracy.” Colau’s government has pushed experiments in community management of space and resources, such as handing over public buildings to local communities. Barcelona is launching a publicly held energy company that will supply energy to municipal buildings.

    A central aspect of municipalist politics, and also, perhaps, the hardest to define, is a focus on what is called the feminization of politics. “Knowing that emotions and affects are very important in politics” is part of what feminization means, Pin said. “Men don’t say that. Empathy is a political value.” Pin’s work in anti-eviction activism is an example of politics that placed emotions at its center. The Barcelona Housing Platform holds open assemblies to which people bring their cases. “The last platform [assembly] we had, this Colombian woman said, ‘When I came here, I wanted to commit suicide, and since then, I have realized that it’s possible to survive and keep my place and negotiate with the bank,’ ” Pin said. “And other people recognize themselves in it. It’s the biggest expression of dignity I have ever seen. I cry every time—these are tears of dignity.” Pin was crying.

    #Communs_urbains #Barcelone #Fearless_cities


  • Opinion | Now Twitter Edits The New Yorker - The New York Times
    https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/04/opinion/bannon-new-yorker-festival-remnick.html

    “I have every intention of asking him difficult questions and engaging in a serious and even combative conversation,” Remnick told The Times in an interview conducted before he withdrew the invitation. “The audience itself, by its presence, puts a certain pressure on a conversation that an interview alone doesn’t do. You can’t jump on and off the record.”

    But none of that mattered because — well, Twitter.

    Following news of the invitation, other high-profile festival invitees, including producer Judd Apatow and actor Jim Carrey, tweeted that they would pull out if Bannon remained on the program. That helped start an online wave that crested with Remnick’s abrupt sounding of the retreat, based, he said, on not wanting “well-meaning readers and staff members to think that I’ve ignored their concerns.”

    That’s nice, and possibly sincere. But as a friend recently remarked with respect to another publication that quickly capitulated to online furies, what this really means is that Remnick is no longer the editor of The New Yorker. Twitter is. Social media doesn’t just get a voice. Now it wields a veto. What used to be thought of as adult supervision yields — as it already has in Congress and at universities — to the itch of the crowd.

    And not just the crowd. As Remnick acknowledged, members of his own staff also revolted at the invitation. One of his writers, Kathryn Schulz, took to Twitter to say she was “beyond appalled” and invited readers to write Remnick in order to add their voices to the pressure.

    That’s an astonishing statement coming from any journalist who believes that the vocation should largely be about putting tough questions to influential people, particularly bad people. If speaking truth to power isn’t the ultimate task of publications such as The New Yorker, they’re on the road to their own left-wing version of “Fox & Friends.”

    #Twitter #The_Newyorker #Steve_Bannon #Journalisme


  • With Michael Cohen’s Guilty Plea, President Trump Has Been Implicated in a Criminal Conspiracy | The New Yorker
    https://www.newyorker.com/news-desk/swamp-chronicles/the-president-has-been-implicated-in-a-criminal-conspiracy

    The President of the United States is now, formally, implicated in a criminal conspiracy to mislead the American public in order to influence an election. Were he not President, Donald Trump himself would almost certainly be facing charges. This news came in what must be considered the most damaging single hour of a deeply troubled Presidency.

    Manafort was convicted of crimes he committed while being paid tens of millions for serving the interests of oligarchs and politicians closely allied with the Kremlin. The trial made clear that Manafort was in tremendous financial distress, in hock to some of those same oligarchs, just when he became Trump’s unpaid campaign chair. The trial contained a central but unasked question: What did this desperate man do when he needed money and had only one valuable asset—access to Trump and his campaign?

    It is the Cohen plea that should be the most alarming, though, to the President, precisely because it has nothing to do with Russia. Instead, it demonstrates a comfort with law-breaking by people at the core of the Trump Organization. Cohen’s guilty plea is part of a long trail of evidence. Last month, a tape recording of Trump speaking with Cohen showed that the President had familiarity and comfort with the idea of using shell companies to disguise payoffs that, we now know, were illegal. This echoed evidence from depositions in a lawsuit filed by the New York Attorney General against the Trump Foundation that suggested deceptive—and almost certainly illegal—practices were standard at the Trump Organization. Cohen admitted in open court that Trump directed him to violate campaign-finance laws.

    It is conventional wisdom these days that views of Trump are fixed: those who hate him can’t hate him more and those who love him can’t be budged, and, all the while, Republicans in Congress will do nothing, no matter what he says or does. There is another way of understanding the impact of Tuesday’s news. Trump was widely viewed to be morally challenged, a man comfortable with pushing the limits of legality, before he was elected. Perhaps he did business with some bad characters, maybe he engaged in some light civil fraud. But that fact had been priced into the election and, anyway, we don’t impeach Presidents for things they did before they were in office. The possibility of the Trump campaign colluding with Russia was a separate matter that was worth investigating because it had to do with his election. Keeping these two matters separate—Trump’s private business and possible campaign collusion—has been an obsession of Trump’s, for obvious reasons. His business cannot withstand this level of scrutiny.

    The Cohen plea and the Manafort indictment establish that this separation is entirely artificial. Trump did not isolate his private business from his public run for office. He behaved the same, with the same sorts of people, using the same techniques to hide his actions.